WHEB Commentary

Libby Stanley

How can we make impact investing more accessible?

We are proud of the Impact Reports we have published over the last few years, but we thought it was time to do something different for the fourth edition. Having listened to our clients’ feedback and realizing the significance of communicating with clients in a digestible manner, we spent time developing a new format for the report earlier this year and worked on an interactive impact microsite to accompany it.

The increasing financialization of the investment industry has meant it has lost its connection with the person on the street. Being open, transparent and demonstrating the positive impact an investment can have in the real world is a powerful way of reengaging people with investing. The purpose of WHEB’s Impact Microsite is to help intermediaries communicate this message to their clients. We also encourage consumers to navigate the site themselves and understand the impact their money is having on the world and also how it is contributing to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The power of impact investing

In our view a part of the ESG industry has lost its way, as ESG data has become focused on a company’s operations whilst ignoring the products and services it provides. We believe that by focusing on companies whose product or service is solving a sustainability challenge, in combination with integrating ESG analysis within financial analysis, we can best achieve a positive impact.  It is a holistic approach which also incorporates engagement and stewardship at both the portfolio level, and WHEB’s activities as a business as well. We hope our Impact microsite demonstrates to both intermediaries and consumers the positive effect an investment can have and helps make the sustainable investment sector more accessible.

Responsible investing is decades old but a combination of factors is giving the sector significant momentum. With more women controlling more wealth, millennials wanting to invest sustainably, and most recently, the BBC documentary Blue Planet II highlighting the damage of single use plastics in our oceans, it seems the sector is at a tipping point, so it is essential it is communicated correctly.

WHEB’s new Impact microsite

Our interactive impact microsite has a host of resources for investors and prospective investors in our fund. It includes our latest Impact Report, now in a much shorter digestible format (it has gone from 38 to 12 pages), as well as a separate detailed methodology document. There is an interactive section on mapping the fund to the UN Sustainable Development Goals; 100% of our holdings are invested in businesses that directly support 7 of the SDGs through the products and services that they sell. However, because the SDGs were primarily written for governments, several of the goals are for wider societal objectives such as peace, justice and reduced inequalities. The companies held in WHEB’s investment strategy indirectly support these ten other goals through their management practices and policies.

The impact site also houses our Impact Calculator, which we have updated this year. Last year it was based on 5 environmental metrics, now there are 6 environmental ones and 3 social, which focus on healthcare and education. Quantifying positive social impact is challenging and very few, if any, listed equity asset managers report this. We are proud of the developments we are making in impact reporting and we will continue to improve the methodology.

Engagement and voting is a key part of our approach to sustainable and impact investing. We engage with businesses in our portfolio to understand them better and to encourage a more progressive approach to environmental, social and governance issues. We report on our engagement activity over the course of the year as well as on how successful we believe that we have been. The engagement section on the impact microsite is an interactive tool showing the types of engagement, how successful they were and a series of case studies.

Advances like the microsite provide our investors with very clear signals about how their money is aligned with internationally agreed goals to solve critical world problems and raise living standards. At the same time, we take an additional step by evaluating what these activities mean in actual outcomes. In our latest Impact Report, we show the positive environmental and social impact for every £1 million pounds invested in the Fund, and the Impact Calculator allows investors to see the effect of smaller amounts in the fund. A client can input the exact amount they have in the fund, see their impact across the 9 metrics and download an ‘impact statement’ PDF.

We believe the microsite, particularly the impact report and calculator, can help intermediaries to explain the link between investments and real-world outcomes to their underlying clients, and therefore make finance and investment a much more tangible experience.

The Impact Microsite can be accessed here http://www.whebgroup.com/impact/


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