Investor engagement: Case studies

Discover three investor engagement case studies
September 2020

Our engagement approach varies by company and the related environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues at hand, ranging from ongoing, constructive dialogue to dedicated site visits. Discover three case studies of our engagement in 2019 that demonstrate our varied approach – plus their links to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Amazon.com                      


SDG - 8 decent work and economic growth     SDG - 13 Climate action

Issue: Labour standards

Targets:

  • 8.8 – Protect and promote safe working environments for all workers
  • 13.2 – Integrate climate change plans into policies and strategies

 

We have been engaging Amazon since 2011 on its approach to sustainability. Towards the end of 2019, Amazon published its Global Human Rights Principles, committing to embedding respect for human rights within its business. The Principles address workplace safety, diversity and inclusion, equal opportunity, forced labour and freedom of association. We see the preparation and publication of these Principles as an indication of a more strategic, long-term focused approach to managing human capital. However, few concrete commitments have been given on how this policy will be implemented in practice, what performance monitoring will look like, or whether any practices will change.

Our approach

In 2018, Amazon surpassed 600,000 employees, double that from two years prior, with many of these being low-skill and low-wage positions. Moreover, distribution activities are still highly reliant upon contract workers. Given the significant exposure to labour-related issues, we have expressed to the company our concerns that poor relevant disclosure hinders investors’ ability to assess practices and performance. Our engagement with the company has included co-filing a shareholder resolution to push for improvements in sustainability disclosure; pushing for dialogue with their newly appointed Head of Sustainability; and coordinating with other investors on urging the company to disclose its oversight and performance of ESG issues. Despite increased dialogue with the company, we remained concerned that its culture remains inward-looking and resistant to public disclosure, with slow progress in developing sustainability programmes being fast outpaced by a rapidly growing operational footprint.

Outlook

Over the last year we noticed Amazon’s attitude beginning to change, with two significant sustainability announcements – the Global Human Rights Principles and its ambitious goal to be net zero carbon by 2040. Our future engagement will be focusing on the implementation of both of these newly stated ambitions.

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The value of investments and any income derived from them can go down as well as up and investors may not get back the original amount invested.

Views and opinions have been arrived at by BMO Global Asset Management and should not be considered to be a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell any companies that may be mentioned.

The information, opinions, estimates or forecasts contained in this document were obtained from sources reasonably believed to be reliable and are subject to change at any time.

McDonald’s                   


SDG - 3 Good health and well-being

Issue: Public health

Targets: 3.b – Support research into vaccines and medicines for diseases primarily in developing countries

 

As the largest fast-food chain globally, McDonald’s exerts significant influence over its suppliers. We believe the company should use this influence to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR) by upholding responsible sourcing practices and adopting strong stewardship practices. We support the implementation of an antibiotic policy that includes clear timelines for phasing out the routine, non-therapeutic use of antibiotics across all species. If the misuse and overuse of antibiotics continues, livestock production may decline, which would negatively impact McDonald’s business model.

Our approach

We arranged a call with operational specialists to discuss AMR. We began by discussing the company’s progressive stance on responsible antibiotic use. We were encouraged to learn that McDonald’s is partnering with its beef producers to measure and understand their use of antibiotics, and we commented positively on plans to establish reduction targets. Regarding poultry farming, the company representatives highlighted that the use of essential oils and enhanced biosecurity practices have resulted in a 70% reduction in antibiotic use in some markets. However, developing an antibiotic policy for pork poses challenges, due to fragmentation in the industry and a lack of regulatory oversight. We commended McDonald’s for its commitment to responsible antibiotic use, and strongly encouraged the company to continue to be as transparent as possible on issues related to antimicrobial stewardship.

Outlook

Our call was positive and informative, confirming our view that McDonald’s is a leader among peers on antimicrobial stewardship. We gained useful insights into all aspects of the company’s approach to promoting responsible antibiotic use, and – given its high profile and global influence – we will closely monitor its progress in 2020. Important next steps will be the publication of an antibiotic policy for pork, and reduction targets for medically important antibiotics in the company’s key beef sourcing markets.

Over the two decades we have run an ESG engagement programme, we have seen more and more companies come to the realisation that if they work together with investors, both sides can reap the benefits in terms of long-term performance.

Juan Salazar, Director, Responsible Investment

Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (CCHBC) 


SDG - 6 Clean water and sanitation

Issue: Environmental stewardship

Targets:

  • 6.4 – Increase water-use efficiency to address water scarcity
  • 6.6 – Protect and restore water-related ecosystems

 

We attended the CCHBC Stakeholder Forum in Athens and visited the company’s manufacturing ‘Megaplant’. The forum was organised by Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company and The Coca-Cola Company. We were the only investor amongst key stakeholders in the Central and Eastern European Region. The theme was water stewardship, primarily the implementation of strategies to manage water-related risks and opportunities and, in turn, promote the long-term sustainability of the business. With 89-99% of soft drinks‘ content being water and having a water-intensive agricultural supply chain, CCHBC is exposed to significant water-related risks.

Our approach

We shared recommendations with representatives from the two companies, including business unit leaders and senior management. We called for the analysis and disclosure of the full water footprint of key products, incorporation of the true value of water into business planning, and development and implementation of context-based water targets. We also encouraged the company to leverage its brand power and distribution network to educate consumers, and work with suppliers further to improve water management practices across the value chain. We visited the Schimateri plant, the largest Greek beverage manufacturing plant, which distributes over 400m litres of beverages per year and over 500m preform bottles. The site received the Gold Certification for responsible water management from the European Water Stewardship (EWS) organisation. We welcomed this achievement and encouraged management to put manufacturing sites in areas of high water risk through the same certification process. CCHBC also reported on a successful community initiative in Challawa, Nigeria, where it has provided a million people with access to water near its bottling plant, trained local managers on water and is helping the community control water quality.

Outlook

The forum and site visit were very encouraging. CCHBC is keen to improve its water stewardship practices and recognises it must involve key stakeholders. It has since made some laudable commitments, including setting context-based water targets, accelerating innovation in re-using wastewater, and further leveraging its partnership network to promote water management. This is a strong start, but there is ample room for improvement. We would like to see the company increase efforts to understand and manage water issues in its agricultural supply chains and implement measures to increase the resilience of manufacturing sites in areas of high water-related risks. More needs to be done to assess the possible impacts of climate change on water resources and the business in general. We will follow progress in these areas and continue our engagement going forward.

Discover more about the history of investor engagement and, importantly, what we believe it will look like in this critical decade for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

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