AdviserAction: Coming together to drive change

In recent years, the asset management industry has made great strides in raising awareness of environmental and social issues, both arising from our day-to-day life and from our investment decisions. There has also been great improvements in providing solutions for investors who want to embed these considerations within their portfolios.

We are pleased with the role we have played so far through our TAM Sustainable World portfolios, engagement and stewardship and our own carbon footprint initiatives. However, it feels incredibly short-sighted to pat ourselves on the back when these are some of the articles I have read recently:

Why is Britain’s mental health so incredibly poor? – The Guardian

Britain has one of the worst obesity rates in Europe. Why? – Financial Times

Poor mental health costing UK employers £51bn a year, report reveals – People Management

I couldn’t help but wonder if there was more I could do to raise awareness and endeavour to make a difference in the battle against these crippling societal issues. Fortunately, TAM is also of the belief that we can all do much more, from a sustainability perspective. As is a growing cohort of wealth managers. Those firms and individuals all tacitly acknowledge that in order to drive change, we need to pull in the same direction. To do that, we all need to be aware of what needs to be improved and what the available options are to improve it. But where to start?

Step forward, CCLA.  Last month, TAM became the first discretionary fund manager to sign up to this innovative asset manager’s AdviserAction initiative.

AdviserAction is a growing sustainable investing network that brings advisers under one umbrella and empowers them to engage directly with companies, putting them in the driving seat for real world change. We believe that engagement, also known as active ownership, is a vastly underutilised way that we can all make a positive difference. That’s using share ownership rights to influence policies, processes, and behaviour of an investee company so they can change practices for the better.

Another issue we have faced is that advisers have an invaluable insight into what clients’ value from a sustainability perspective, as well as a wealth of expertise but the sustainability movement so far has left these underutilised. The only way an adviser could previously help clients manage their wealth sustainably is through the recommendation to buy funds which have a sustainable objective. Therefore, this growing effort in our industry will invite them, armed with the views of their clients, to the table and build on the fantastic work they have done in raising awareness in this space.

CCLA have consistently shown company engagement to be a critical tool in sustainability and by collaborating in this way we believe working together through AdviserAction can: firstly, and most importantly give advisers the power to have their clients’ voice heard. Secondly, the evidence to demonstrate that advisers are using their clients’ assets to drive change. Thirdly, this initiative also offers advisers the ability to collaborate with TAM, and other members of the adviser community to improve company behaviour. Lastly, we hope it will provide the tools to increase knowledge of what sustainability looks like and to empower advisers to embed it in their practice, when those clients ask for it.

The first area where the initiative is looking to drive change is on mental health. Addressing poor mental health is a key societal issue in the UK at present. It is estimated that one in four people have a mental health issue. We want to raise awareness here for the sake of people’s health, but an effective way to bring companies to the conversation is by explaining ill health can significantly impact upon company performance. Deloitte, estimate that it cost the UK private sector £43-46bn in the year 2020-2021. Therefore, engaging with companies to help them build an environment within which their workers can flourish can have both a positive societal and financial outcome.

AdviserAction has signed the CCLA-convened Global Investor Statement on Mental Health and following that, through its secretariat, will lead engagement with Frasers Group and IBM on this issue. These firms have been chosen because both are common portfolio holdings and currently rated in the lowest tier of the CCLA Mental Health Benchmark, designed to assess objectively how listed companies approach and manage workplace mental health.

We believe this initiative encompasses the way TAM view sustainability and our role as an intermediary. We are incredibly excited about extending this to both advisers and clients and believe together, we can all make a difference.

If you would like to speak with me about AdviserAction or discuss our TAM Sustainable World portfolios, please do not hesitate to get in touch.