Climate risks currently aren’t top-of-mind for most mainstream investors, but the potential value at risk for investment portfolios is significant, according to a new report by Preventable Surprises, a business risk think tank.
Investors, Climate Risk and Forceful Stewardship: An Agenda For Action says the context of the physical impacts, and market and regulatory shifts associated with climate change put portfolios at risk of major losses and investors should prepare portfolio companies for a transition to a low-carbon economy.
Targeted at senior investment decision-makers, the 134-page report is the product of a week-long online dialogue on online engagement platform Convetit with over 70 senior finance sector professionals and other experts from around the world, considering how investors might play a bigger role in the solution to “Big Climate Risk.”
“The Forceful Stewardship ThinkTank was one of the most robust and dynamic I’ve seen on Convetit, demonstrating the value of gathering a critical mass of positive mavericks globally to collaboratively brainstorm creative solutions to the ‘wicked problems’ posed by climate change,” said Bill Baue, Convetit co-founder, who served as an independent facilitator. “This was yet another example of how virtual dialogue brings together diverse players in an ecosystem to create synergies that leads to new ideas ‘popping’ in ways that wouldn’t happen in isolation or in other, more constrained settings.”
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The Forceful Stewardship Guidelines provide a blueprint for pension trustees and other asset owner decision-makers to act on portfolio climate risk and to protect themselves against legal liability for negligence.
The guidelines recommend pension leaders to:
1. Declare their intentions to vote in favor of shareholder resolutions that will help reduce systemic climate risk while growing shareholder value in the long-term;
2. Instruct voting advisers to vote automatically in favor of climate risk-mitigating resolutions. If current voting agents are unable to support this obligation, find agents who will;
3. Vote in favor of resolutions that call for listed companies to publish robust analyses of their assessments of the physical, policy and economic impacts to their businesses of carbon budgets under 2°C and 4°C warming scenarios respectively.
The report also recommends reviewing investment beliefs that underpin these actions.
The virtual dialogue found investment specialists from many countries and all parts of the investment chain agree that inducing portfolio companies to adopt low carbon, "2-degree" business models could be a very leveraged action: it is both forceful and systemic. But the decision to do this has to be taken by boards and senior executives of investors — it can't be passed down to the head of ESG. And this strategy — forceful stewardship — is at least as important as divestment, green investing and decarbonization/ESG integration.
The talk also concluded that collaboration between investors and civil society specialists, particularly scientists and policy advocates, is essential.
Two 2014 reports examined the increasingly urgent risks to which major corporations around the world are vulnerable thanks to climate change, along with their own part in exacerbating those risks and how they could act to mitigate them. Gap, HP, PepsiCo and over 50 other S&P 500 companies are feeling climate-change-related risks increase in urgency, likelihood and frequency, with many describing significant impacts already affecting their business operations.