Greenbank’s priority engagement projects for 2022

At Rathbone Greenbank Investments (Greenbank), our mission is to generate long-term value for our clients. We utilise our expertise and passion to create positive impact through our bespoke investment services.

9 March 2022

Engagement is a vital part of our role as ethical, sustainable and impact investors. It enhances our ability to understand and mitigate key risks and is one of the primary tools through which we can create positive impact. It also empowers our clients to invest their money as a force for good.

"Greenbank has over 20 years’ experience engaging with companies on ethical, sustainable and impact investment issues." 

Greenbank has over 20 years’ experience engaging with companies on ethical, sustainable and impact investment issues. Our track record of engagement has led to positive change on a diverse range of issues from modern slavery to climate change. We engage not just with the topics that are financially material in the short-term, but also where there is a strong moral imperative to act on certain social or environmental issues, or those we feel represent systemic risks in the long-term. To increase the reach and impact of our engagement activities we collaborate closely with NGOs and other members of the responsible investment community.

We have identified five priority engagement projects that we will be developing and expanding on in 2022. Alongside this, we will also engage with companies directly on specific issues as and when they arise. We choose where to focus our efforts based on our exposure to these issues across Greenbank holdings; where we have an opportunity to prime the market for wider investor engagement; alignment to our sustainable development themes; and where clear outcomes are identifiable.

Climate Change/Net Zero Strategy – aligned to Energy and Climate

Greenbank recently announced our plan to become a net zero emissions business by 2040. This commitment covers emissions associated with our operations, supply chain and the investments we manage. We are using the IIGCC’s Net Zero Investment Framework to set targets covering our investments and were one of the first investors to publicly disclose our net zero strategy to the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative in October 2021.

In the near-term, we will focus on engagement with companies. We will encourage alignment with net zero pathways and achieving real-world emissions reductions. An enhanced engagement strategy is being developed to support and guide this work.

Biodiversity – aligned to Habitats and Ecosystems

Biodiversity underpins the ecosystem services that nature provides. Economic activities in turn depend upon those ecosystem services.

In December 2020, Greenbank became a signatory to the Finance for Biodiversity Pledge. Signatories commit to protecting and restoring biodiversity through their finance activities and investments. They do this by engaging with companies, assessing impacts, setting targets and reporting progress publicly by 2025. In March 2021, Greenbank also joined the Partnership for Biodiversity Accounting Financials where we are working to develop guidance for financial institutions to measure their biodiversity impacts.

We will continue to work with these initiatives throughout 2022 as well as engage with companies to understand how they are approaching biodiversity. In particular, we will look at areas such as governance, target setting and measurement.

2022 is a critical year for action on biodiversity loss; not least because the second half of COP15: Biodiversity will take place in April. Last year we fed into COP15 planning by participating in a workshop for financial organisations working on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework – a key agreement being developed at COP15 which will create the guidelines and ambition needed to develop global targets for tackling and ultimately reversing biodiversity loss.

Labour Standards and Living Wage – aligned to Decent Work

The current cost of living crisis in the UK has reignited conversations around labour standards and the living wage. At Greenbank, we have a track record of promoting and driving better disclosure in this area.

We are a long-term partner of the Workplace Disclosure Initiative (WDI) and helped shape its methodology pre-launch. The WDI allows us, as well as other investors, to classify companies seeking investment by their working standards – including aspects such as diversity.

Living wage is another topic on which we continue to be active. We are supporters of the Living Wage Foundation and ShareAction’s Good Work Coalition. Going forward, we will continue with this type of engagement, including encouraging companies to join the Living Hours accreditation scheme which commits employers to provide their workers with added security and stability of working hours and shift patterns. These measures also include providing the right to decent notice periods for shifts and the right to a contract that reflects accurate hours worked.

Social Housing Standards – aligned to Inclusive Economies

Greenbank’s focus to date on this topic has been promoting improved and standardised disclosure across the social housing sector. Following an initial review of the social housing sector in 2019 we identified a lack of consistent ESG reporting. We initiated engagement with 20 social housing providers on five core issues including tenant safety and wellbeing. In 2020 we became an early adopter of a sector wide initiative called the Sustainability Reporting Standard for social housing. By promoting the Sustainability Reporting Standard that covers 48 ESG criteria, we are ensuring that our partners are building safe, sustainable homes for some of society’s most vulnerable.

Going forward we will be looking to expand our engagement on this topic, recognising that access to safe, stable housing underpins many issues related to inclusion in our economy.

Health and Nutrition - aligned to Health and Wellbeing

Good health is important to us all, and to society. Not only that, but the health of populations is critical to defining economic resilience and prosperity.

As well as engaging collaboratively with the Food Foundation’s Plating up Progress Initiative, ShareAction’s Healthy Markets investor coalition and the Access to Nutrition Initiative, Greenbank also led an investor coalition in 2021 to call on the UK Government to introduce mandatory reporting of nutrition and sustainability metrics for food sector companies.

This year we will be continuing with this crucial work as well as trying to raise awareness of the key issues and the work investors can do to combat them. This project includes both partner work and media engagement, such as our participation in this lively Food FM radio interview.

We have also identified some secondary engagement projects where we will be continuing engagement and maintaining existing partnerships. These include animal welfare, human rights, world heritage sites, financing a just transition and access to medicine. We also continue to horizon scan for potential future engagement opportunities.

You can follow our engagement progress on our website or via our Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.