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Human rights theme leads ground-breaking quarter for Active Ownership

Human rights theme leads ground-breaking quarter for Active Ownership

29-10-2021 | Active Ownership Report

A new engagement theme focused on human rights due diligence leads the Active Ownership team’s Q3 report.

  • Carola van Lamoen
    Carola
    van Lamoen
    Head of Sustainable Investing

Speed read

  • Human rights engagement focuses on companies in conflict or high-risk areas
  • Food security and cybersecurity engagement themes draw to a close
  • Robeco joins PRI panel on climate change, launches SDG engagement strategy

The quarter also saw two major developments in sustainable investing for Robeco as the firm joined a high-level partnership with the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) for combatting climate change and launched a new strategy that uniquely combines active ownership with active management.

The beginning of an engagement project that aims to help companies better manage their exposure to human rights risks leads the Q3 report. The team is carrying out an in-depth research project focused on companies active in conflict-affected or high-risk areas to try to minimize any harmful exposures. Daniëlle Essink outlines the project’s main goals in a Q&A.

As one engagement theme opens, others conclude. Over the past three years, the team has conducted an active dialogue with companies across the food supply chain to better understand their role in ensuring food security across the globe. Laura Bosch reflects on how the different companies have each started to contribute to make the global food system more resilient.

This year also marks the end of Robeco’s cybersecurity engagement theme in which the team has followed several companies on their journey to strengthen their systems. Covid-19 has massively raised the amount of people and businesses moving online, and with it the threat of cybercrime. In a wrap-up report, Carolina Vergroesen shares the main insights and results of the engagement.

Tackling biodiversity loss

As one of most impactful risks facing both our planet and global economy today, biodiversity loss can no longer be overlooked by investors. Robeco has proactively tried to advance the biodiversity agenda, both through its corporate engagements and its collaborative efforts. Peter van der Werf explains what challenges companies still face in addressing commodity-driven deforestation.

Meanwhile, proxy voting continues to remain an important tool for active ownership. Carolina Vergroesen and Antonis Mantsokis reflect on some of the trends and sustainability questions that have shaped the agenda for the 2021 proxy voting season, led by the ever-rising tensions around responsible executive remuneration and the growing importance given to diversity and inclusion.

Policy response partnership

During the quarter, Robeco became a partner of the PRI’s Inevitable Policy Response (IPR) for climate change. The IPR seeks to provide investors with a forecast of global policy responses to climate change, including realistic input to, and output from the energy and land-use climate transition.

“The publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report, as well as the recent string of natural disasters in the form of major floods, heatwaves, wildfires and storms emphasize the urgency of climate action,” says Carola van Lamoen, Robeco’s Head of Sustainable Investing. 

“Besides climate change, another major environmental challenge is the rapid global decline in biodiversity. In 2020, Robeco initiated an engagement with several companies producing commodities closely linked to biodiversity loss. As we near the halfway mark of this theme, this report explains how we are pushing companies to make biodiversity management a priority.”

Launch of SDG Engagement Equities

The quarter also saw the launch of a new strategy, SDG Engagement Equities. This aims to target the most material issues to improve companies' contributions to the relevant SDGs. The strategy is unique at Robeco in that it combines active management with active ownership, and is the first to be co-managed by an engagement specialist, Peter van der Werf.

“A brand-new addition to our engagement universe is the launch of our SDG theme,” says Van Lamoen. “The engagements under this theme will tackle the most material ESG issues in order to improve the companies’ impact on the SDGs.”

“The breadth of our active ownership program demonstrated in this report underpins our commitment to being responsible stewards.”