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How investors want fund managers to act


David Brett

David Brett

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Investors have named the environment - and climate change - as the most important area for fund managers to focus on when they are influencing company behaviour.

The findings were part of Schroders Global Investor Study (GIS) 2019, which garnered the views of more than 25,000 investors in 32 locations around the world.

The research also showed that a majority of investors believe fund managers should be automatically investing sustainably. Nearly two-thirds (61%) of investors said all investment funds should consider sustainability factors, not just those specifically designed as "sustainable investment funds".

Given a range of options (shown below), investors said that “protecting the planet from degradation”, including taking urgent action on climate change, should be a top priority when fund managers engage and influence companies.

Jessica Ground, Global Head of Stewardship at Schroders, said: “The results of this study should be heeded. The asset management industry looks after $74 trillion* on behalf of investors.

“It is therefore essential that fund managers listen to what those investors want and act on it – in every conversation with companies, every meeting and in every investment decision.”

Sustainability goals

Investors were asked which of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals they thought were most important for fund managers to engage and influence companies on.

Protecting the planet from degradation came top in Europe and the Americas, as well as globally. This is perhaps unsurprising given that 63% of investors globally also expected climate change to have an impact on their investments.

Protecting the planet was the second choice among Asian investors. Instead they prioritise ensuring that everyone can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives, and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature. Globally, ‘People’ and ‘Peace’ (full definitions in the table below) came third and fourth respectively on the list of priorities.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals that matter most

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Source: Schroders Global Investor Study 2019

Should all funds consider sustainability factors?

Investors were also asked whether all investment funds should consider sustainability factors, not just those specifically designed as "sustainable investment funds". Regionally, Asian investors (66%) were the most in favour of all investment funds considering sustainability factors. The figure was lower in Europe (58%) but the majority still agreed. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of investors in the Americas were in favour of default sustainable considerations.

How-FMs-should-act-taking-a-sustainable-approach-CS1778.jpg

Source: Schroders Global Investor Study 2019

Investors want ‘best in class’

Investors were also asked about the various approaches to sustainable investing. The definitions for each are shown in the chart below, together with the results.

To achieve their goals, investors said a “responsible” or best-in-class approach was the most important method (40%) when investing sustainably.

An “integrated” approach (39%) was the next most important method followed by a “screened” approach (that avoids controversial companies – or “sin stocks”), which was least likely to be considered the most important (21%).

The responsible approach was favoured most in the Americas (42%) and Europe (40%), while Asian investors (47%) preferred an integrated approach.

How-FMs-should-act-the-approches-that-matter.jpg

Source: Schroders Global Investor Study 2019

Schroders’ Jessica Ground said it was important for the industry to note that most investors want a consideration of ESG factors (environmental, social and governance) from all funds.

“Clients are clear they don’t want investments that operate in a vacuum, the majority are looking for ESG integration as standard,” she said.

“They also want asset managers to hold companies to account, particularly on issues like climate change and water shortage.

“That is why we have set a target for all of our investors at Schroders to be systematically integrating and engaging on ESG by the end of next year.”

* Source: Global value of assets under management was $74.3 trillion at the end of 2018 - Boston Consulting Group. Published July 2019.

- Read more about how sustainability seeks to deliver long-term value in a fast-changing world.

Schroders commissioned Research Plus Ltd to conduct an independent online survey of 25,743 investors in 32 locations throughout the world, with fieldwork held between 4th April – 7th May 2019. This research defines ‘investors’ as those who will be investing at least €10,000 (or the equivalent) in the next 12 months and who have made changes to their investments within the last 10 years; these individuals represent the views of investors in each country included in the survey.

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