Our latest engagement: a focus on social issues

Historically difficult for investors to define and quantify, social issues are now among the most pressing issues for companies globally – discover our engagement on some of these issues, including antimicrobial resistance in Q4 2020.
March 2021

Risk disclaimers 

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.

Historically difficult for investors to define and quantify, social issues are now among the most pressing issues for companies globally – discover our engagement on some of these issues in Q4 2020.

Raising awareness on antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

Engagement progress update

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a natural phenomenon in which microorganisms develop resistance to antimicrobial agents. However, it is being accelerated by poor stewardship of antibiotics in healthcare and farming: antimicrobial-resistant microbes can spread between people and animals, and from person to person. As a result, a growing number of common bacterial infections – from pneumonia to urinary tract infections – are becoming more difficult to treat. If antibiotics continue to lose their effectiveness, caesarean sections and chemotherapy, as well as other commonplace medical interventions, could become extremely high risk and severely undermine modern medicine.

2020 was the Investor Year of Action on Antimicrobial Resistance – a collaboration between the Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return Initiative (FAIRR), the Access to Medicine Foundation, the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), and the UK Government – to galvanise investor efforts to address AMR. We participated as an Investor Partner because we believe that investors need to take urgent action against this threat to public health, particularly as the Covid-19 pandemic risks affecting antimicrobial stewardship activities and accelerating the spread of AMR. We began our cross-sector engagement project on AMR in 2019, and are continuing it this year.

November 18 marked the beginning of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2020. As an Investor Partner, we committed to two initiatives during this week:

  1. Publishing an in-depth ESG Viewpoint explaining how major food and pharmaceutical companies are overcoming the myriad challenges posed by AMR, and outlining our related engagement.
  2. Releasing a podcast episode to further raise awareness about AMR.

“AMR is a serious threat to global public health that investors need to take urgent action against, particularly as the Covid-19 pandemic risks affecting antimicrobial stewardship activities and accelerating the spread of AMR.”

Workforce-related disclosures continue to make strides

Reporting standards

We have been actively engaging companies across a wide range of industries to disclose to the Workforce Disclosure Initiative’s (WDI) annual survey since its inception in 2016. Key findings from the evaluation of the submissions by 118 companies to 2019’s survey include that companies are generally reluctant to provide data on staff turnover, as well as on internal accountability mechanisms to support workforce governance structures, and that they are willing to submit more data against workforce metrics for permanent employees than their temporary counterparts.

In Q4 2020, we engaged 81 companies on their participation in the WDI and enhanced labour-related disclosure. Of these engaged companies, 21 disclosed their efforts (up from 17 in 2019). The information – or lack thereof – disclosed will inform our engagement efforts going forward.

Interested in learning more? Download our Stewardship Report to discover more of our engagement and voting highlights during Q4 2020.

Risk disclaimers 

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.

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