Transition to a low carbon economy
Because of our exposure to high yield issuers (many of whom are private) and our focus on transitioning companies, a key benefit of the Dynamic Bond ESG fund is that we have access to influencing companies which traditional sustainability-focused equity funds do not. Indeed, we are often told by investee companies that we are the first investors to have properly engaged with them. Reassuringly, we have noticed that the companies in the portfolio we have engaged with over the past months on Net Zero are very keen improve and seek our suggestions on what their competitors are doing, what investors are expecting, and what we see as priorities for them.
- Net Zero by 2050 target across scope 1, 2, and 3
- Short- and mid-term carbon reduction targets in line with Net Zero
- Emission intensity targets
- Disclosure of scope 1, 2, and 3
- A viable decarbonisation strategy
- Capital allocation to support the decarbonisation strategy
The 14 mandatory PAIs (+2 for sovereigns and +2 for real estate) cover a broad range of information, including emissions across the supply chain, gender pay gap, and impact on biodiversity. We are experiencing enormous disclosure gaps for these, both from the companies themselves as well as from data providers. As a result, we have contacted the companies in the portfolio and urged them to improve disclosure across these points over the past months. We do not expect immediate improvement as it will take time for companies to adjust their resources to expand their auditing, but it has been reassuring to already see disclosure improvement from companies we have engaged with, including Maxeda DIY and Newday.
In our engagement on human rights, we have been targeting companies with highly complex supply chains exposed to industries and raw materials that are known to use exploitative labour practices, such as the retail industry, the automobile industry, and the solar energy industry.
There is a large discrepancy of how exposed different industries are to these themes, and we have prioritised our engagement on industries we believe will have the most impact, including:
Tesco has committed to Net Zero emissions by 2050 across their value chain, which is impressive considering the magnitude of their supplier base across the globe. Their target has been approved by the SBTi and is supported by mid- and short-term targets. To reduce their scope 3 emissions, representing more than 90% of their total emissions, they are collaborating with suppliers to establish their own net zero goals. They also have a partnership with WWF in which they are trialling emission reduction technologies for their supply chains, for example feed additives to cows to reduce methane emissions and alternative animal feed which requires less land use.
The food industry is also at risk of human rights violations from multiple perspectives. It is an industry with widespread use of child labour, particularly for crops where production is highly fragmented, such as cacao and rice. But the industry is also at risk of violating human rights from the perspective of deforestation, land rights, and respecting indigenous populations. Furthermore, certain parts of the agricultural industry, such as forestry, are highly hazardous and often carry high levels of fatalities and serious incidents among the labour force.
Banks and insurance companies are very exposed to ESG risks, but they also have an outsized ability for positive impact.
Both the Bank of England and the European Central Bank published their inaugural climate stress tests this summer, highlighting the risks of climate change to the banking and insurance sectors. The report published by the BOE has a stronger focus on the impact of increased cost of carbon and macroeconomic effects of a disorderly transition, including high unemployment and recession risks. It estimates that profits could be reduced by 10%-15% on average per annum for banks and insurers. The ECB pays greater attention to physical risks such as heat waves and floods, as well as exposure to high-emitting industries, and estimates that the short-term, three-year disorderly risk of climate change would result in losses of ~€70 billion. Both the BOE and the ECB recognise that their assessment is limited to a few scenarios and risks and that the actual impact is likely to be much greater, especially when considering the secondary effects of climate change. Perhaps worryingly, the ECB found that 60% of banks in their sample did not have a well-integrated climate stress-testing framework, increasing the risk of poor mitigation integration and preparedness.
Scope 3 emissions, that is emissions which the company indirectly contributes to via their supply chain, is the largest source of emissions for companies in this sector due to the activities a company is insuring or financing, often representing over 95% of a company’s total emissions. Despite its high impact, we find that many companies in the sector are not properly disclosing their scope 3 emissions despite it being a material piece of information for investors, and as such it has been an important area of engagement for us.
For example, we engaged with Barclays in June. The company only disclose their scope 3 emissions from business travel, bringing their disclosed total emissions to 174,900 tonnes. However, digging deeper to the company’s report we can find more information of their energy loan book which is estimated to result in 58,600,000 tonnes of CO2, 335 times higher than their disclosed total emissions! Using data of emissions from their energy loan book alone; not including data from other highly emission sectors they finance such as mining, construction, and transport; we find that Barclays emissions in 2020 is the equivalent of 18.5% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas footprint. Please see attached note for more information.
Over the past months we have also engaged with Banco Sabadell, Caixabank, Beazley, and Credit Suisse within the banking and insurance sectors.
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