Engaging with companies

Read some real-life examples on how we’ve engaged with companies on your behalf. We use these companies as an example of the action we take. The issues highlighted are not exclusive to them.

 

Boohoo is a well-known online fashion retailer and has generated headlines over the past year with allegations of poor working conditions and practices in its supply chain. Alongside our peers we had numerous engagements with the company in the second half of 2020 and consequently Boohoo announced its Agenda for Change programme. The programme has a focus on improving supply chain management and sourcing products more sustainably and responsibly. Boohoo has also strengthened its expertise around sustainability by appointing new key roles. We plan further engagement throughout the year, including discussion of Boohoo’s long-term sustainability roadmap.

What does sustainability mean for Boohoo? This means Boohoo needs to make decisions about how it sources its products with full consideration of the environmental, social and human impacts.

In late 2019, we, alongside more than 100 investors, encouraged Facebook and Twitter to strengthen privacy controls and prevent the livestreaming and distribution of offensive content. We explained that we expect new legislation to protect the public from exposure to similar content in the future.

As a result of this engagement, Facebook updated its audit and risk oversight committee to explicitly include a review of content-related risks.

In addition to this, the company invested $3.7 billion on safety and security and required all employees to complete a mandatory annual privacy training course.

Facebook has also formed a Privacy Committee with independent board members to monitor privacy compliance. An independent, third-party assessor will also review its data practices and report back on a quarterly basis.

We hope that Twitter will also respond positively, and we continue to be part of this important collaboration.

Coal is the most polluting fossil fuel and is also increasingly expensive. We have continued to take a public stance against the construction of new coal plants that risk becoming unprofitable and therefore a potentially undesirable investment for your pension.

We exclude coal mining from the default investment options for our pension plans. The default investment option is chosen by your employer and is where your money will be invested if you haven’t made your own fund choices.

Alongside other investors, we engaged Samsung C&T on its financing of coal power abroad. The company has since decided to cancel some, though unfortunately not all, of its existing coal pipeline. In response, in March 2021 we voted against Samsung C&T’s board at its annual general meeting.

Best known for its popular computer games ranging from Mario Kart to Zelda, Nintendo is a company we’ve been engaging with for several years.

We believe that a well-run company should seek to promote a diverse workplace, where employees are valued and rewarded appropriately, and we expect all companies in which we invest to have at least one woman on their board.

We believe our engagement has helped lead to the company’s commitment to appoint a female board member within 12 months and expand the number of independent board directors (which has since been fulfilled). We also asked for increased workforce flexibility to be offered in the form of maternity leave and the company committed to increase its female workforce from 20% to 25%.

More engagement is required on these issues in future.

Without urgently tackling the deforestation associated with food production, tackling the challenge of climate change will be impossible.

In 2020, we engaged consumer goods giant Proctor & Gamble and supported a shareholder proposal to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain. We’re also encouraging the company to increase the percentage of sustainably certified pulp.

We also engaged with Nestlé repeatedly in 2020 on sustainability issues including water scarcity, packaging, recycling and supply chain management. The company has since committed to:

  • net zero emissions
  • externally verified certifications for water use and raw material sourcing
  • 100% recyclable/reusable packaging by 2025.

We’ll be meeting the company’s chief executive officer in 2021 to follow up on these commitments.

Separately we’ve engaged the Brazilian government following its steps to loosen environmental protections. We joined an investor group to engage directly with senior Brazilian officials. We expressed our concerns, warning of potential divestment from local food companies and even government bonds.

The Brazilian government responded by introducing a ban on setting fires in the Amazon. New data, however, shows that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon is sadly continuing to increase. We’ll be watching developments closely.