GIIA has published the following response to Brad Cornell’s opinion piece in The Financial Times (16th July, 2020) titled ‘The ESG concept has been overhyped and oversold’.
Infrastructure investors increasingly believe that key to their commercial success is a focus on the principles of ESG investing, to manage risk, improve the performance of assets under management, and enhance their corporate reputation. It is not just a question of doing the ‘right’ thing, although in today’s society that is pretty fundamental to maintain your ‘social licence’; investing through the ESG lens for the long term also makes good business sense. A way to look at ESG investing is through the 7 R’s model (credit to Wayne Visser, Professor of Integrated Value and Chair in Sustainable Transformation at Antwerp Management School), in the way that it lowers risk, improves reputation, fosters resilience, increases resource efficiency, anticipates regulation, supports recruitment and increases revenues.
Good ESG performance should not be seen as a one-off. Companies that improve their ESG performance go on a journey that results in continued improvement, adding value year after year. Making decisions without ESG information is also risky and, in some cases, could be seen to constitute a disregard for fiduciary duty.
Investors that have embedded ESG into their decision making should not be “called on to make judgments on social issues that they are not empowered to make, nor equipped to handle”. Effective executive decision making is actually informed and empowered by the extent to which an organisation is engaged with the societies within which it operates. Companies that have enhanced engagement with their stakeholders are likely to make better informed, well-rounded decisions.
Infrastructure investors are consciously choosing to invest for the long-term with ESG at the core of their investing strategies, because they know it is the way to build long term value for stakeholders and shareholders.