Quarterly Client Update: Fourth Quarter 2023

Quarterly Client Update: Fourth Quarter 2023

We provide regular strategy updates including portfolio changes and proxy voting, and links to our investment rationales, latest articles, statements, webcasts and videos which explore our thinking on sustainable investment, including the challenges and issues we grapple with in our search for high-quality companies.

Strategy updates: portfolio changes & proxy voting

Find out the latest updates on the strategies we manage including significant portfolio changes and proxy voting.

You can also build your own report by selecting individual strategies of interest.

News from the quarter

Introducing the Indian Subcontinent Sustainability VCC

We are excited to announce that our Indian Subcontinent Sustainability strategy, first launched in 2003, is now available to investors in the EEA and Switzerland as an Irish-domiciled VCC. Managed by Sashi Reddy and David Gait since inception, the fund leverages the team’s expertise and strong track record of investing across Asia. Holding between 30-60 investments at one time, the fund will focus on delivering strong absolute returns over cycles and invest in companies based in, or where the majority of the company’s activities take place in, the Indian subcontinent region.

Collaborative engagement update: Tackling conflict mineral content in the semiconductor supply chain

We remain grateful for the continued support of our PRI collaborative engagement: Tackling conflict mineral content in the semiconductor supply chain, an initiative that first began in 2021. We are pleased to inform you of some recent developments and plans.

Recent achievements
  • Strengthened relationship with the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI).1
  • Built trust with leading US electronics companies, who are also steering committee members of the RMI.
  • Chaired and hosted a closed-door workshop in October 2023, endorsed by the RMI, with sixteen leading electronic companies.
  • Became the first investor to speak at the RBA2 and RMI’s Annual Conference in Santa Clara, California on the positive role of capital.
  • Engaged with 21 electronic and industrial companies on mineral traceability.
  • Commissioned Kumi Consulting Ltd (Kumi) to deepen our knowledge, contacts and engagements with companies, trade bodies and organisations like the OECD.
  • Developed, with the help of Kumi, engagement guidelines for initiative supporters, and other investors, to improve their interactions with companies.

RMI Membership

Members of the RMI debated, over a number of months, whether they should allow investors to join their trade body. There were some initial reservations, however a number of company representatives and steering committee members of the RMI and RBA Board Liaison have been strong supporters. There is a growing feeling amongst RMI members that investors could bring a new and constructive perspective to help influence improvements along mineral supply chains. Representatives of the companies and other RMI members believe: “there is a big role for investors, they have a different point of leverage”.

We are pleased that the RMI has taken the significant step of allowing investors to become members of their trade body. This is one of the objectives we set last year.

We believe membership will provide initiative supporters and investors with a deeper understanding of mineral supply chains and greater engagement credibility. Membership should enrich engagements and highlight the importance of mineral traceability at the C-suite level (where we know, through our interactions with companies, that knowledge on this topic is weak). With the strength of collective voice, we must encourage CEOs not to cut corners and to invest more resources to achieve an untainted mineral supply chain, thereby minimising human rights abuse.

What more have we learned?
  • The issue is grave. During a meeting, Fairphone3 explained that even they believe they are only 70% free of tainted minerals.
  • Supply chain complexity means that even determined companies, such as Fairphone, can only map four out of the twelve tiers of companies in their supply chain.
  • Accordingly, few CEOs have a deep awareness of the challenges in their mineral supply chain.
  • Supply chain departments are often viewed as “cost drags” and are inadequately resourced.
  • Many supply chain managers are ‘covert NGOs’ who are frustrated by the lack of impact.
  • Upcoming EU regulations will pressurise companies and investors to focus more intently on human rights abuses in their supply chains.
What we plan to do next
  • Join the RMI as an investor member and seek to establish an investor working group.
  • Share details to initiative supporters and other investors to consider joining the RMI investor membership when it becomes available.
  • Encourage more investors to collaborate on this initiative.
  • Consider broadening the scope of the initiative beyond the 3TGs in line with EU regulations to include all minerals.
  • Encourage initiative supporters to engage on this topic when meeting electronic companies.
  • Engage with banks on lending practices to smelters or refiners (SORs) in the Asia Pacific region.
  • Encourage companies to explore upstream certifications (IMRA4) in their supplier requirements.
Conclusion

We recognise that engagement on this topic will be a long journey, over a number of years, but we hope that by building a closer relationship with the RMI and influential companies in the electronics supply chain we are a step closer to effecting change.

Footnotes

1 Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI), a trade body with over 400 members, https://www.responsiblemineralsinitiative.org/

2 Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), the parent organisation of the RMI, and the world’s largest industry coalition dedicated to corporate social responsibility in global supply chain, https://www.responsiblebusiness.org/

3 Fairphone is a Dutch electronics manufacturer that designs and produces smartphones and headphones. It aims to minimise the ethical and environmental impact of its devices by using recycled, fairtrade and conflict-free materials, maintaining fair labour conditions throughout its workforce and suppliers, and enabling users to easily repair their own devices through modular design and by providing replacement parts.

4 IMRA: The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance. https://responsiblemining.net/what-we-do/assessment/

Collaborative engagement update: Investor Initiative on Hazardous Chemicals (supported by ChemSec)

In line with our ongoing research into the risks of PFAS, polluting man-made substances known widely as “forever chemicals”, we became supporters of ChemSec’s Investor Initiative on Hazardous Chemicals (IIHC).

Prevalent in a wide range of consumer products for decades due to their non-stick qualities and ability to repel grease and stains, forever chemicals have proven toxic effects and do not break down in the natural environment, making them a threat to people and planet. We look forward to participating in this initiative, which will see 50+ investors representing over $10 trillion in AUM engage with major chemical producers to raise awareness of and therefore reduce the risk of these hazardous substances.

To learn more about the initiative, please visit the ChemSec website.

Latest insights

Build your own report

Select the strategies you are interested in. Strategy update and Proxy voting can also be split out. You can then download a copy of the report by clicking on the button.

Stewart Investors Quarterly Client Update Q4 2023

1 October - 31 December 2023

Risk factors

This material is a financial promotion for the Stewart Investors Sustainable Funds Group strategies – Asia Pacific and Japan Sustainability, Asia Pacific Leaders Sustainability, Asia Pacific Sustainability, European Sustainability, European (ex UK) Sustainability, Global Emerging Markets Sustainability, Global Emerging Markets Leaders Sustainability, Indian Subcontinent Sustainability, Worldwide Sustainability and Worldwide Leaders Sustainability – and is intended for professional clients only in the UK, Switzerland and EEA and professional clients elsewhere where lawful.

Within the EU/EEA and Switzerland, the European (ex UK) strategy is only available to investors via a segregated mandate account.

Investing involves certain risks including:

  • The value of investments and any income from them may go down as well as up and are not guaranteed. Investors may get back significantly less than the original amount invested.
  • Emerging market risk: Emerging markets tend to be more sensitive to economic and political conditions than developed markets. Other factors include greater liquidity risk, restrictions on investment or transfer of assets, failed/delayed settlement and difficulties valuing securities.
  • Indian Subcontinent risk: although India has seen rapid economic and structural development, investing there may still involve increased risks of political and governmental intervention, potentially limitations on the allocation of the strategy’s capital, and legal, regulatory, economic and other risks including greater liquidity risk, restrictions on investment or transfer of assets, failed/delayed settlement and difficulties valuing securities.
  • Specific region risk: investing in a specific region  may be riskier than investing in a number of different countries or regions. Investing in a larger number of countries or regions helps spread risk.
  • Currency risk: the strategies invest in assets which are denominated in other currencies; changes in exchange rates will affect the value of the strategies and could create losses. Currency control decisions made by governments could affect the value of the strategies’ investments and could cause the strategies to defer or suspend redemptions of shares.
  • Concentration risk: the European Sustainability and Worldwide Leaders Sustainability strategies referred to in this material invest in a relatively small number of companies which may be riskier than a strategy that invests in a large number of companies.
  • Smaller companies risk: investments in smaller companies may be riskier and more difficult to buy and sell than investments in larger companies.

Where featured, specific securities or companies are intended as an illustration of investment strategy only, and should not be construed as investment advice or a recommendation to buy or sell any security.

If you are in any doubt as to the suitability of our strategies for your investment needs, please seek investment advice.

Investment philosophy

  • We are stewards: Our role is to allocate society’s capital to productive uses, in accordance with our Hippocratic Oath
  • We are long term: Our time horizon is measured in years, not weeks, and we value companies accordingly
  • We invest only in companies contributing to a more sustainable future: We engage constructively as owners to help companies on their sustainability journeys
  • We invest only in high-quality companies: We seek out companies with exceptional cultures, strong franchises and resilient financials
  • We believe capital preservation is important for capital growth: We define risk as the possibility of the permanent loss of client capital

Investment objective

To generate attractive long-term, risk-adjusted returns by investing in the shares of high-quality companies that are particularly well positioned to contribute to, and benefit from sustainable development.

Important information

This material is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute investment or financial advice and does not take into account any specific investment objectives, financial situation or needs. This is not an offer to provide asset management services, is not a recommendation or an offer or solicitation to buy, hold or sell any security or to execute any agreement for portfolio management or investment advisory services and this material has not been prepared in connection with any such offer. Before making any investment decision you should conduct your own due diligence and consider your individual investment needs, objectives and financial situation and read the relevant offering documents for details including the risk factors disclosure. Any person who acts upon, or changes their investment position in reliance on, the information contained in these materials does so entirely at their own risk.

We have taken reasonable care to ensure that this material is accurate, current, and complete and fit for its intended purpose and audience as at the date of publication but the information contained in the material may be subject to change thereafter without notice.

No assurance is given or liability accepted regarding the accuracy, validity or completeness of this material.

To the extent this material contains any expression of opinion or forward-looking statements, such opinions and statements are based on assumptions, matters and sources believed to be true and reliable at the time of publication only. This material reflects the views of the individual writers only. Those views may change, may not prove to be valid and may not reflect the views of everyone at First Sentier Investors.

Past performance is not indicative of future performance. All investment involves risks and the value of investments and the income from them may go down as well as up and you may not get back your original investment. Actual outcomes or results may differ materially from those discussed. Readers must not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements as there is no certainty that conditions current at the time of publication will continue. 

References to specific securities (if any) are included for the purpose of illustration only and should not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell the same. Any securities referenced may or may not form part of the holdings of First Sentier Investors’ portfolios at a certain point in time, and the holdings may change over time.

References to comparative benchmarks or indices (if any) are for illustrative and comparison purposes only, may not be available for direct investment, are unmanaged, assume reinvestment of income, and have limitations when used for comparison or other purposes because they may have volatility, credit, or other material characteristics (such as number and types of securities) that are different from the funds managed by First Sentier Investors.

Selling restrictions

Not all First Sentier Investors products are available in all jurisdictions.

This material is neither directed at nor intended to be accessed by persons resident in, or citizens of any country, 

or types or categories of individual where to allow such access would be unlawful or where it would require any registration, filing, application for any licence or approval or other steps to be taken by First Sentier Investors in order to  comply with local laws or regulatory requirements in such country.

About First Sentier Investors

References to ‘we’, ‘us’ or ‘our’ are references to First Sentier Investors, a global asset management business which 

is ultimately owned by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG). Certain of our investment teams operate under the trading names FSSA Investment Managers, Stewart Investors and Realindex Investments, all of which are part of the First Sentier Investors Group.

This material may not be copied or reproduced in whole or in part, and in any form or by any means circulated without the prior written consent of First Sentier Investors.

We communicate and conduct business through different legal entities in different locations. This material is communicated in:

  • United Kingdom by First Sentier Investors (UK) Funds Limited, authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (reg. no. 2294743; reg office Finsbury Circus House, 15 Finsbury Circus, London EC2M 7EB).
  • European Economic Area by First Sentier Investors (Ireland) Limited, authorised and regulated in Ireland by the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI reg no. C182306; reg office 70 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2, Ireland; reg company no. 629188).
  • Other jurisdictions, where this document may lawfully be issued, by First Sentier Investors International IM Limited, authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority (reg. no. 122512; reg office 23 St. Andrew Square, Edinburgh, EH2 1BB; regcompany no. SC079063).

To the extent permitted by law, MUFG and its subsidiaries are not liable for any loss or damage as a result of reliance on any statement or information contained in this document. Neither MUFG nor any of its subsidiaries guarantee the performance of any investment products referred to in this document or the repayment of capital. Any investments referred to are not deposits or other liabilities of MUFG or its subsidiaries, and are subject to investment risk, including loss of income and capital invested.

© First Sentier Investors Group