Sustainable investment is aligned to our investment philosophy through two key tenets: the balance of risks and expected return, and our long-term approach to investing. For more information on our approach to sustainable investment and our investment philosophy, refer to www.bt.com.au/sustainability
We believe the active consideration of ESG factors in the investment analysis and decision-making process can enhance our ability to meet the long-term investment objectives of our funds and provide greater insight into investment risks across time frames. Proxy voting and engagement with the companies in which we invest is fundamental in driving positive portfolio outcomes. We believe in being transparent in our approach and progress. Our beliefs and actions in relation to the integration of ESG factors are supported by an established body of research and industry evidence that supports the case for greater examination of ESG factors.
We have a well-established model for integrating ESG factors, including integration into the investment process through investment manager selection and mandates, engagement and proxy voting, reporting, advocacy and research. In certain cases we may also exclude certain activities and companies from our investible universe on the basis of ESG risks and/or client preferences. This activity is undertaken within the investment team supported by dedicated ESG service providers including EOS at Federated Hermes (EOS) and Regnan — Governance Research & Engagement (Regnan).
The level of ESG integration and an individual investment manager’s capabilities form an important part of our investment manager selection process. During the manager selection process and on an ongoing basis, we undertake a formal assessment of an investment manager’s level of ESG integration and resourcing and how that might influence investment outcomes by undertaking desk-based research and meeting with key investment and ESG personnel.
Investment managers are assessed on their:
- Approach to ESG including associated policies;
- People and resources, including ESG research sources;
- Integration of ESG into the investment process, including examples of how ESG matters have impacted or are likely to impact the management of the portfolio;
- Their engagement with companies and proxy voting; and
- Transparency, reporting and advocacy.
This formal assessment has a direct bearing on the final assessment of an investment manager’s suitability for the portfolio.
We encourage our investment managers to include ESG factors in their investment processes, in addition to having ongoing dialogue around ESG issues.
Once appointed, where relevant, specific terms regarding ESG practices are included in the investment mandates.
- Endeavouring to act consistently with the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI);
- Acknowledging that ESG issues have the potential to impact investment risks and returns;
- Acknowledging that considering these issues alongside traditional factors in investment decision-making can improve long-term risk-adjusted returns; and
- A requirement for ESG specific reporting.
We monitor investment managers on ESG integration on a regular basis, along with ad hoc engagement where there is a material ESG risk, such as a controversy in a security held in the portfolio.
Note, we do not segregate managers across the SSA, Corporate (financial), Corporate (non-financial) and securitised dimensions. We generally employ managers to manage across these categories hence the consistent responses for this section and the rest of the SAM section.
As an institutional investor our investment decisions can impact the wider economy. We believe that positive outcomes can be more appropriately achieved through ESG risk management and company engagement, rather than blanket screening of certain types of investments. To this end, our preference is to influence the behaviour of companies in which we invest through engagement and proxy voting, with a view to working with boards and management to address material ESG issues.
In certain circumstances, and considering our clients’ preferences, where it is deemed not feasible to influence a company through engagement or proxy voting, we may consider excluding certain securities or industries as an appropriate way to manage risks, where activity undertaken:
- Is unlawful in the relevant jurisdiction;
- Would lead to a contravention of international treaties or conventions ratified by Australia; and/or
- Is a severe breach of accepted business standards.
Prior to exclusions being exercised, consideration is given to the impact of exclusions to the investment funds’ ability to meet investment objectives.
A list of activities we currently exclude is provided below but may change from time to time:
- Growing and production of tobacco;
- Production of controversial weapons, including anti-personnel mines, biological and chemical weapons and cluster weapons; and
- Severe breaches of international norms such as the UN Global Compact principles.
More detail on each of these activities can be found in the BT Responsible Investment Position Statement.
These exclusions only apply to Australian and international shares exposures where we have an investment management agreement with the investment manager. Exclusions generally do not apply to investments in pooled vehicles over which we cannot exert our influence to implement this approach.