In April 2017 a large group of global investors, coordinated by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), issued its 4th investor statement, calling upon signatories of the ‘Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety’ and the ‘Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety’ to meet their obligations under the Accord and the Alliance. The statement urged the signatories to keep up the pace of implementation and to commit beyond 2018 to complete the remediation process, to work with other stakeholders to support a living wage for garment workers and to create an environment in which workers can exercise their internationally recognised rights freely. In June 2017, Triodos Research spoke with representatives of H&M and Carrefour, both signatories of the Accord, on the day that the continuation of accord (from 2018 to 2021) was announced. During the conversation we learned that the new Accord includes additional commitments to ensure that workers’ rights to freedom of association are respected and that their safety is also protected. The new Accord opens the opportunity to broaden the scope of the current Accord into other related industries or suppliers, as suggested in the ICCR letter of April 2017. Although the fund is pleased with the extended Accord, there are concerns about the next phase, beginning May 2018. The Bangladesh government’s support for the Accord activities seems to be decreasing as the Government aims to transfer the functions of the Accord to a national regulatory body. A second concern is the limited number of current signatories that have signed up for the new period. The fund will continue to support the ICCR, beginning in 2018 with a call on current signatories to remain committed to this important process, and to sign up for the new Accord period.
The fund participates in the ‘RE100 investor group,’ an engagement project on climate change led by ShareAction, a UK non-profit investor organisation. The project calls on companies to commit to using 100% renewable energy (RE100) and as of 2017, it also calls to commit to doubling energy productivity before a set deadline (EP100). ShareAction has sent letters to the following companies in the investment universe: Adidas, BMW, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Ford, GAP, Heineken, PSA (Peugeot Citroën), Roche, and Renault.
In March, AkzoNobel announced its new ambition to commit to using 100% renewable energy by 2050. The company has decided to join the RE100 and is the second-largest electricity user in the RE100, with an annual consumption of around 16 Terawatt-hour. In 2018, ShareAction will continue this engagement, aligning the goals of engagement even more with the 2°C limit set in the Paris Agreement.
Child labour in the cobalt supply chain
Following the publication of a 2016 report by Amnesty, the fund in 2016 joined a group of 23 international institutional investors, led by Dutch pension investor APG and including Dutch and Scandinavian pension funds, to engage with relevant industries about the risk of child labour in the cobalt supply chain. This investor group intends to engage with 13 companies that have been identified by Amnesty International as being at risk of using cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, including Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, and Volkswagen. Of these companies, Sony is included in the investment universe. In 2017 the fund also engaged with Renault (see previous page) and Tesla about this topic. The aim of the collaborative engagement is to raise the awareness of the companies, with the ultimate goal of abolishing child labour from the cobalt supply chain. From its dialogue with companies, the fund learned that many companies are joining leading industry initiatives, such as the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, or the Responsible Minerals Initiative. However, according to a new Amnesty International report published in November 2017, many companies have been slow to take real action to reduce the prevalence of child labour. The fund was invited by Dutch pension fund MN to moderate a panel discussion on the risks for investors in the cobalt supply chain during the UN Business and Human Rights Forum in November 2017, continuing the momentum for the topic. By participating in this collaborative engagement, the fund aims to be an active voice in the joint effort of investors, business (organisations), civil society and governments, to mitigate the human rights risks in the supply chains of minerals and to encourage companies to enhance their responsible sourcing practices. To this end the fund also contributed to a briefing on this topic for investors, drafted by UNPRI, that is scheduled for early 2018.