Forum Home Page [see Broadridge note below]

 The Shareholder ForumTM`

Fair Investor Access

This public program was initiated in collaboration with The Conference Board Task Force on Corporate/Investor Engagement and with Thomson Reuters support of communication technologies. The Forum is providing continuing reports of the issues that concern this program's participants, as summarized  in the January 5, 2015 Forum Report of Conclusions.

"Fair Access" Home Page

"Fair Access" Program Reference

 

Related Projects 2012-2019

For graphed analyses of company and related industry returns, see

Returns on Corporate Capital

See also analyses of

Shareholder Support Rankings

 

 

 

Forum distribution:

Professional survey research defines investor decision-making relevance of ESG factors

 

For the survey report referenced in the article below, addressing a broader range of investor decision-making considerations, see

The new Edelman research addresses currently relevant issues consistent with the Forum's foundation analysis of investor reliance on alternative sources of decision-making information: October 6, 2010 Forum Report: Survey of Investor Communication Priorities for Voting Decisions (5 pages, 119 KB, in PDF format).

References to the leadership of Forum participants in establishing the current understandings of ESG factors analyzed by Edelman can be found here.

 

Source: The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, December 23, 2019 posting

Wake Up Call for Corporate Leaders

Posted by Lex Suvanto and David Carey, Edelman, on Monday, December 23, 2019

Editor’s Note: Lex Suvanto is Global Managing Director, Financial Communications & Capital Markets and David Carey is Senior Content Advisor at Edelman This post is based on an Edelman memorandum by Mr. Suvanto, Mr. Carey, Laurie Hays, and Josh Hochberg. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Agency Problems of Institutional Investors by Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen, and Scott Hirst (discussed on the Forum here).

What it takes for public companies to pass muster with major investors is changing. Until recently, a laser-like focus on maximizing shareholder returns was singularly paramount. No longer.

A new set of guiding principles, initially set forth in an August statement from the Business Roundtable and reinforced in our survey findings, is gaining acceptance.

Today, stock performance and financial returns are increasingly joined by a new set of investment criteria for leading institutional investors. To measure up, most investors agree, companies must address the needs of a wide range of stakeholders and must implement effective environmental, social-impact and governance (ESG) practices.

These are among the main findings of the new Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Institutional Investors. The study, in its third year, surveyed more than 600 institutional investors in six countries managing over $9 trillion in assets.

The report sheds light on pivotal issues shaping major financial institutions’ investment choices, as well as what drives investor trust in companies.

Here are ten insights from this new study:

  1. Investors agree that a multi-stakeholder commitment is essential. 84 percent of investor respondents agree that maximizing shareholder returns can no longer be the primary goal of the corporation, and that business leaders must commit to balancing the needs of shareholders with those of employees, local communities, customers, partners and suppliers.

  2. Overemphasizing shareholder returns can lead to multi-stakeholder activism. 71 percent said that companies will make themselves responsible for employee or consumer activism if they overemphasize shareholder returns at the expense of other stakeholders. Three-quarters say that companies with employee activism are less attractive investments.

  3. Investors are investing more in ESG-excelling companies. 61 percent have increased their investment allocation to companies that excel when it comes to ESG factors, and more than half of investors believe that ESG practices positively impact trust.

  4. More than half of investment firms are hiring more staff for ESG. The growing primacy of non-financial priorities is having an impact on investment-industry hiring, with 56 percent of respondents saying their firms are adding staff to focus on ESG issues.

  5. Cybersecurity, employee health and eco-efficiency are top priorities for investors. 99 percent of respondents expect the Board of Directors (of the companies in which they invest) to oversee at least one ESG topic. Data privacy and cybersecurity, employee health and safety, and eco-efficiency of the company’s operations are the top priorities among other ESG topics in respondents’ plans to engage with the Board in the next 6 months.

  6. ESG has become a leading consideration in voting and engagement policies. 87 percent of respondents say their firms have changed their voting and/or engagement policies to be more attentive to ESG risks, and 86 percent would consider investing with a lower rate of return if it meant investing in a company that addresses sustainable or impact investing considerations.

  7. Investors associate ESG with financial performance. 58 percent of investors recognize a correlation between a company’s operating performance and level of ESG disclosure, and more than half believe ESG initiatives favorably impact a company’s growth and the ability to manage risk.

  8. C-suite compensation should be tied to ESG performance. 52 percent of investors say that linking executive compensation to progress in reaching ESG performance targets would improve their trust in a company.

  9. In the face of activism, Board engagement is as important as management engagement. 86 percent of investors must trust a company’s Board of Directors before making or recommending an investment. The chief ways firms are taking an activist approach are by actively seeking an audience with the Board of Directors and more frequently asking to meet with company’s management.

  10. Company and leadership social media content matters. 96 percent of investors use one or more social platforms on a weekly basis. When evaluating a current or prospective investment, 82 percent of investors consult the company’s social media channels and 79 percent of investors consult the social media channels of a company’s leaders.

Investors are increasingly drawing a straight line between corporate investments and societal value. ESG priorities are no longer optional. This should serve as a wake-up call for corporate leaders.

A new corporate Zeitgeist is emerging—one that promises to shape the economy and society for years to come.

 

 

Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation
All copyright and trademarks in content on this site are owned by their respective owners. Other content © 2019 The President and Fellows of Harvard College.

 

 

This Forum program was open, free of charge, to anyone concerned with investor interests in the development of marketplace standards for expanded access to information for securities valuation and shareholder voting decisions. As stated in the posted Conditions of Participation, the purpose of this public Forum's program was to provide decision-makers with access to information and a free exchange of views on the issues presented in the program's Forum Summary. Each participant was expected to make independent use of information obtained through the Forum, subject to the privacy rights of other participants.  It is a Forum rule that participants will not be identified or quoted without their explicit permission.

This Forum program was initiated in 2012 in collaboration with The Conference Board and with Thomson Reuters support of communication technologies to address issues and objectives defined by participants in the 2010 "E-Meetings" program relevant to broad public interests in marketplace practices. The website is being maintained to provide continuing reports of the issues addressed in the program, as summarized in the January 5, 2015 Forum Report of Conclusions.

Inquiries about this Forum program and requests to be included in its distribution list may be addressed to access@shareholderforum.com.

The information provided to Forum participants is intended for their private reference, and permission has not been granted for the republishing of any copyrighted material. The material presented on this web site is the responsibility of Gary Lutin, as chairman of the Shareholder Forum.

Shareholder Forum™ is a trademark owned by The Shareholder Forum, Inc., for the programs conducted since 1999 to support investor access to decision-making information. It should be noted that we have no responsibility for the services that Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc., introduced for review in the Forum's 2010 "E-Meetings" program and has since been offering with the “Shareholder Forum” name, and we have asked Broadridge to use a different name that does not suggest our support or endorsement.