Rathbone Greenbank Review Spring 2017
The momentous political events of 2016 left many investors with an altered sense of what can and cannot be predicted. With Donald Trump now in place in the highest office of a global superpower and the UK’s Brexit negotiations imminent, this year’s elections in Europe may give a further indication of the extent to which the world is changing.
Whereas the vagaries of international politics may leave room for speculation, the drivers behind socially responsible business and investment are gathering strength. Poor standards of corporate governance and operational transparency are increasingly viewed as competitively disadvantageous in the long term, while companies and sectors showing insufficient regard for future social and environmental sustainability face the growing threat of devaluation.
In this edition of our Review, we track the course of the fossil fuel divestment movement as well as discussing the next steps for corporate responsibility in upholding the long-established principles of global human rights. With much of the language of historical legislation focused on the obligations of states to protect individual rights, the rise of the multinational corporation has demonstrated a greater need for increased accountability across global business operations.
A key focus of Rathbone Greenbank’s working year is our annual Investor Day and we look forward to welcoming guests to this year’s event in London on 18 May, which will take the issue of sugar as its main theme.
Scientific consensus was historically slow to acknowledge the harmful effects of sugar overconsumption, in particular its link to childhood obesity. But the question of its impact on quality of life and the increasing costs of the associated healthcare provision has now become central to a global debate. As part of this, governments are responding through forms of taxation and reduction targets: the UK will introduce a tax on soft drinks with added sugar in April 2018 and France has recently moved to ban unlimited fizzy drink refills in family restaurants.
With the help of expert speakers, we will look at the risks to both public health from excessive consumption and, potentially, to investments in food and beverage producers.
We also highlight our long history of ‘impact investment’ — a term that continues to gain exposure but whose precise definition is sometimes open to interpretation. In relation to this, we feature the contribution of our ethical research team to Rathbones’ successful bid to manage the Access Foundation’s £60 million endowment fund for charities and social enterprises.
The team has remained active in its engagement work throughout 2016 and our efforts in addressing the issues of climate change, human trafficking and responsible taxation are summarised here. Further information will be available on our website throughout the year.
On behalf of the Rathbone Greenbank team, I hope that you enjoy this latest edition of the Review. If you have any comments or if we can assist you in any way, we would be delighted to hear from you.
Head of Rathbone Greenbank Investments