Companies need to start justifying their existence beyond a financial return
We recently had the chance to ask Amanda about her role at Standard Life, the upcoming Responsible Business Summit , and her ideas on how sustainability professionals should engage the investor community.
Ethical Corporation: What's your current role and responsibilities?
Amanda Young: Head of Responsible Investment – manage a team of analysts research and engaging on environmental and social issues and how these impact our investee companies.
EC: What are the big issues to watch in 2016?
AY: Disruptors – The Millennials – moving from ownership to sharing economy. This is both the next generation of investors and the next generation of consumers. How companies position themselves for this generation will be key to sustainability of returns.
Trends – Climate change – following Paris and successful negotiations to reach a global agreement, questions over both the USA and China’s abilities to deliver on promises remain. 2016 will be key in determining whether these commitments can be met.
Intervention – Governments are placing more and more responsibility on companies to meet the growing environmental and social demands of the world. This is through regulation and threatening corporate license to operate.
EC: In your role as Head of Responsible Investment what are your priorities for 2016?
AY: Ensure the quality of internal research and engagement is adding value to the investment process, delivering workable and agreed solutions to our clients, building strong thought leadership in the market place.
EC: The Modern Slavery Act will take effect in May 2016. Do you have a clear strategy on how to rate companies reporting against this new requirement?
AY: Not on how to rate companies but you have to take a risk based approach. Different sectors will have different levels of risk – both at a sector level and a company level, it will be important to ask the right questions to understand how these risks are being managed.
EC: Investors are taking increasing interest in corporate responsibility and sustainability; do you have any recent examples of Standard Life portfolio managers integrating ESG into investment decisions?
AY: Plenty – have a look at our quarterly reports and our Governance & Stewardship Annual Review! We have also demonstrated examples through the PRI webcast programme, through our PRI submission and other industry reporting.
EC: How can the sustainability community help investors reach the tipping point for sustainable and responsible investments?
AY: Make sure that the work remains investment relevant.
EC: We’re often told an issue is not a lack of information, it’s the quality of information supplied to investor community. How can sustainability professionals supply more sophisticated information to the investor community?
AY: It has to be business relevant – companies still fail to address this. Companies also need to start justifying their existence beyond a financial return. This will be essential to build reputation (corporate trust is at an all-time low), innovation, and justify their license to operate.
EC: COP21 agreement – a success or did you wish for more?
AY: See above – agreement reached (success), ability to deliver is still unclear (concern)
EC: Corporation tax – higher or lower?
AY: Depends on country, context, sector and a company’s impact on society.
EC: A government to watch on sustainability?
AY: Already happening.
EC: And finally, what are you most looking forward to at this year’s Responsible Business Summit?
AY: Innovative solutions that deliver on societal and environmental needs that will also add value to shareholders.
Amanda Young will be speaking at the 15th Annual Responsible Business Summit. She will be speaking on how sustainability professionals can build a transparent relationship with the investor community to deliver bottom line value. Joining Amanda at the Summit will be speakers from; Patagonia, Virgin Atlantic, Telefonica O2, Body Shop, Fairtrade Foundation, Unilever, Fairphone, The Rainforest Alliance and more. Click here for more information
standard life investments responsible investment rbseu stakeholder engagement
June 2016, London
EthicalCorp’s flagship event features 12 CEOs, 50+ speakers and over 400 attendees all debating how business can create a positive impact through smarter, more sustainable business strategy