Sustainability, Vol. 15, Pages 8411: Sustainable Thematic Investing: Identifying Opportunities Based on an Analysis of Stewardship Reports

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Sustainability, Vol. 15, Pages 8411: Sustainable Thematic Investing: Identifying Opportunities Based on an Analysis of Stewardship Reports

Sustainability doi: 10.3390/su15108411

Authors:
Kara Nel
Nadia Mans-Kemp
Pierre D. Erasmus

Globally, a growing number of stakeholders recognise that sustainability determines success on multiple levels. Therefore, asset managers in developing and emerging countries increasingly focus on sustainable investment opportunities. While institutional investors largely centred on governance considerations pre-2020, the Coronavirus pandemic highlighted substantial social and environmental concerns at companies worldwide. As South Africa is the most unequal country globally according to the World Bank, decisions made by local institutional investors can have significant implications for individuals and environments where capital is invested. The objectives of this study were hence to analyse the sustainability themes on which South African asset managers focused in their stewardship reports and to explore the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that they addressed through their investment mandates. A content analysis was performed on stewardship reports that were published in 2020 and 2021 to consider the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. The findings indicate that prioritised sustainability themes include climate action, infrastructure development and social considerations. The considered asset managers accordingly focused on addressing climate action (SDG 13), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), and affordable and clean energy (SDG 7). Promising investment opportunities in companies that address key social issues, including the health and well-being of society (SDG 3) and broadening access to quality education (SDG 4) were also highlighted. The leaders of local investee companies are thus encouraged to ensure concise, transparent reporting on these material matters to enhance communication and engagement with institutional investors and other key stakeholders. This study offers a novel perspective on sustainable thematic investing in a highly unequal society.

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