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 Quarterly Client Update

Quarterly Client Update

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:

News from the quarter

B Corp Certification

In 2022 First Sentier Investors became a certified B Corporation (B Corp), following a two-year certification process. As a semi-autonomous investment group within First Sentier Investors, Stewart Investors is covered by this certification.

The certification means that we are now part of a community of more than 6,000 companies with a shared goal to transform the communities in which we live and operate for the benefit of the people and our planet.

Global Emerging Markets

The St Andrews Partners global emerging markets pooled funds have now been fully aligned with Stewart Investors sustainability approach.

Portfolio Explorer – climate solutions update

We use Project Drawdown - www.drawdown.org - to help us understand the role companies can play in climate solutions. We map investee companies to Project Drawdown’s collection of climate solutions, which if scaled up, can deliver the Paris Agreement’s 1.5oC temperature goal.

In mid-2022, Project Drawdown announced 11 new solutions to their collection related to ocean resources, food production, methane management, and materials manufacturing and use. Bringing the total numbers of solutions in their framework to 93.

We have reviewed portfolio companies for alignment to these new solutions and included them on the Q4 2022 Portfolio Explorer update. We have mapped 26 companies to 6 of these solutions.

Following client feedback, we have also simplified how we define company contributions to Project Drawdown climate solutions and have removed Indirect (companies that are involved in and around the solution) as a measure. Contributions are defined as either Direct (directly attributable to products, services or practices provided by that company) or Enabling/Supporting (supported or made possible by products, technologies or practices provided by that company).

For further information on the companies mapped to these new solutions please click below.

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

At the end of 2021 we launched the PRI collaborative engagement: Tackling conflict mineral content in the semiconductor supply chain. The initiative was supported by 160 signatories amounting to US$6.59 trillion of assets. Since then it has attracted more interest from a number of large financial institutions.

Our engagements with companies, and industry and civil bodies, highlights that more action is required to improve practices on the provenance and reporting of conflict minerals within semiconductors.

“As a shareholder you should want us to care about conflict minerals … to address it”.

Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, 2014.

A brief recap of the conflict mineral issue

Tin, Tungsten, Tantalum, Gold and Cobalt1 are essential ingredients in the manufacture of semiconductors. The mining of these minerals is associated with human rights abuses. Five broad trends are impacting the sourcing, processing and demand of these minerals.

  • Mineral mining continues to shift to central Africa. 70% of Cobalt originates from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • SOR2 capacity continues to shift to Asia. 90% of Cobalt is refined by Chinese owned SORs.
  • Governance over mineral traceability is outdated. OECD & RMI3 guidance is 5 and 10 years old.
  • Companies’ efforts to identify and trace the provenance of minerals has stalled, as demand rises.
  • Demands for a greener future necessitates more semiconductors and therefore more mineral mining.

Meanwhile, the associated problem of human rights abuses with mineral mining has not improved. This was underlined by testimony to US congress by Ida Sawyer, Human Rights Watch4, in July 2022.

“The humanitarian and human rights situation across the country, and especially in the east, remains dire. Nearly 5.5 million people are displaced across the country, and one in three people are facing severe or acute food insecurity, according to the United Nations. Some 120 armed groups are still active in eastern Congo, including several groups that include fighters from neighboring Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda … Many of these groups, as well as their backers among the Congolese political and military elite, control lucrative mineral resources, land, and taxation rackets. Many of them have also recruited children among their ranks”.

Over the last decade, electronic companies have made insufficient progress on tracking the provenance and integrity of minerals in their supply chain. We need to re-double our engagement with companies to encourage better mineral sourcing, tracking and reporting practices.

What have we done in the last 6 months?
  • Continued to engage with companies, and we have met with nine companies in person.
  • Engaged with industry bodies. We attended the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) annual conference and understand we are the first known investor to have done so.
  • Engaged with civil bodies. We have met with Global Witness to discuss the findings of field research they recently carried out and published in their report: The ITSCI Laundromat: How a due diligence scheme appears to launder conflict minerals. A summary of the findings is available in this short interview.
What have we found?
  • The issue of improperly sourced minerals and the associated human rights abuses within the semiconductor supply chain is more severe than we first anticipated.
  • Actions by companies to address the issue is generally poor and progress has stalled.
  • Frustration is rising amongst industry body members with their lack of impact.
  • Geopolitical tensions are increasing government’s focus on supply chain transparency to identify frailties. Many companies are focusing resources on supply chain mapping. This is beneficial.
Conclusion

It is extremely early days for this multi-year engagement but it is clear that tracing mineral provenance is an extremely complex challenge for companies. Progress is slow. While there is a unanimous desire to improve practices, some companies are more eager and able to meet this challenge than others. Surprisingly, the strength of ambition to improve practices has been independent, so far, of company size or industry prominence. This may point to complacency within certain areas of the industry.

We will continue to update you on any progress we make and any challenges we encounter.

Footnotes & Reference Material

1 Collectively known as conflict minerals with the exception of Cobalt which technically sits outside that legal definition

2 SOR = Smelting and Refining

3 RMI = Responsible Minerals Initiative

Child Labor and Human Rights Violations in the Mining Industry of the Democratic Republic of Congo. US Congress 14/7/22.

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 2022

1 October - 31 December 2022

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