Today (19th June) marked the fifth anniversary of the launch of Marks and Spencer’s ‘Plan A’ on sustainability. The breadth of what is still regarded as the most ambitious corporate sustainability strategy in existence was underlined by the eclectic range of questions fired at the company from the 500 strong audience of NGOs, supplier and investors.
One of our long term holdings in the fund has confirmed that they are in discussions with another company which may lead to a takeover offer. Elster is a smart meter company which manufactures gas, electricity and water meters and has strong market positions in their industry. The UK company Melrose is reported to be considering whether to make an offer for the company, and there are rumoured to be other companies potentially offering competing approaches. Takeover approaches like this one are an indicator of high levels of confidence by the acquiring company which contrasts sharply with investors’ worries about the economy and possible breakup of the euro. Also in our fund, German health company Fresenius is acquiring the hospital operator Rhoen-Klinikum, and US dialysis service provider Davita is acquiring HealthCare Partners.
“You want us to produce one of those corporate socialist reports?!” This incredulous response, from the CEO of a large US conglomerate may not be the typical reaction that we get from companies (a raised eyebrow is much more common in London) but it does belie a deep-seated misunderstanding about the role and value of sustainability reporting.