Ashmore integrates ESG factors into fundamental analysis across its liquid investment themes and scores them to the extent they are deemed material to investment returns.
Whilst ESG criteria has historically been focused on equity investing because of the influence which shareholder interests are able to exert on the management of a particular company, Ashmore believes that ESG is applicable to all asset classes. Ashmore considers that the way in which companies manage ESG factors can have an impact on business performance and valuation, and should be incorporated into investment decisions.
The stakeholders in a company encompass employees, local communities, wider society, governments, supply chains, customers and the natural environment. There are a wide range of ESG issues which could be relevant for a company depending on the industry in which it operates and its specific business profile. ESG issues can become new sources of risk or opportunities for companies, and a company’s ability to respond to these issues can therefore act as an early signal of long-term competitiveness. To the extent practicable, Ashmore routinely monitors the ESG performance of the companies in which it invests through on-going company visits and other information channels. In addition, companies often disclose corporate governance practices through corporate policies, stock market listings, and market press releases (for example, Brazil has a separate category for companies committed to corporate governance best practice). Companies may also disclose environmental and social practices in annual reports and other reports to investors. These are then highlighted, as appropriate, in Investment Committee reports.
ESG metrics are used to measure, analyse, and rank securities. Assessments at the stock level tend to be qualitative and based on company public disclosures, interviews and/or company visits which are made to each company held in portfolios. In addition, Ashmore gathers information from market related channels, such as suppliers and clients. These assessments are then factored into the valuation and profitability metrics, which are evaluated relative to history, country and industry comparators.
As a global investor, Ashmore recognises that legislation and best practice standards vary between countries and regions, and that it must remain sensitive to these differences. However, at a minimum, Ashmore expects the companies in which it invests to comply with the national legislation that applies to them.
In the Listed Equities themes Ashmore believes that good corporate governance helps to align the interests of company management with those of its shareholders. Where possible, Ashmore seeks to maintain constructive dialogue with company management.
Ashmore considers whether companies have corporate governance frameworks that are in line with applicable country codes and serve shareholder interests. Views on corporate governance do not constrain investment decisions however; often the most profitable investments can be made in companies where an improvement in corporate governance practices is anticipated. In many jurisdictions, and to the extent consistent with Ashmore’s fiduciary duty to its clients, Ashmore exercises voting rights as a means to signal views to company management. Ashmore has developed detailed guidelines to guide voting decisions, but will, as appropriate, consider resolutions on a case-by-case basis taking into account all available information.