Stockholm (NordSIP) – As we unveil this week’s instalment of the IRRI Survey’s Nordic cut, we asked Tytti Kaasinen (pictured), chosen both globally and locally as the Best Analyst for SRI Research, to tell us about her most recent achievements. She described the two most important themes in her research right now.
Born and raised in Finland, Tytti Kaasinen went to university in Manchester, UK where she took her first steps in the world of sustainable finance as a Responsible Investment Analyst at the Cooperative Asset Management. In 2011, she returned to the Nordics and joined the engagement team of GES International (now Sustainalytics) in Stockholm. Kaasinen’s current role focuses particularly on driving and coordinating her firm’s Stewardship and Risk engagements, which address topical and material ESG themes.
Water is actually super exciting
Among all the issues she has come to focus on over the year, Tytti has become particularly fond of two particular subjects. “I have two particular pet topics within ESG and have been fortunate enough to get to put a lot of effort into advancing both in the past year,” she starts. “Water is the first one. I’ve been focusing on this topic in varying intensity throughout the past decade, and it feels like the water crisis is always losing out to other (seemingly) more urgent and/or exciting ESG issues in the public discourse. But water is actually super exciting, and while that can be a somewhat subjective view from a passionate proponent like me, there’s no denying that water-related challenges can’t be pushed down the agenda for much longer without potentially very material and irreversible consequences”.
“We finished a three-year thematic project on water this summer with the last year including the final stage of our targeted engagement with approximately 20 companies in high-risk sectors, as well as a related benchmarking exercise that we conducted in cooperation with AP7. Even though the benchmarking disappointingly confirmed that corporate water management is lagging, the analysis also found that our engagement companies had improved significantly more in the past two years than their peers. For someone like me, who truly believes that engagement bears benefits to companies and investors alike, it was really rewarding to see evidence of its concrete impacts,” Tytti explains.
Standard human rights assessment may not capture the special vulnerabilities and rights that children have.
Kaasinen takes the opportunity to flag a second theme, dear to her and often overlooked by investors: children’s rights. “Apart from child labour, there is way too little attention to the related risks, impacts and opportunities among both companies and investors,” she explains. “It is important to understand that a standard human rights assessment may not capture the special vulnerabilities and rights that children have, and they are certainly not an irrelevant stakeholder group from the business perspective either.”
“For the past 12 months, I have been working with UNICEF on guidelines to support investors in assessing and integrating child-related aspects in their policies and processes, and I’m really pleased and proud to announce that we have literally just finished the paper,” Kaasinen continues. “The Investor Guidance on Integrating Children’s Rights into Investment Decision Making will be published soon, so watch this space! I encourage readers to subsequently contact me with feedback on the guidelines’ usefulness and suggestions for further efforts that Sustainalytics and UNICEF might take to ensure that children do not remain or become a blind spot in investment analysis.”
It would be more efficient for everyone involved to explore common ground and maximise synergies rather than pursue parallel paths.
In addition to the two specific areas she highlighted already, Kaasinen generally believes that investors’ potential to help tackle global problems is vastly underutilised. “When participating in ESG events and following discussions by and for non-investor stakeholders, they often seem to forget that there are many investors with an interest and means to add more weight behind reasonable calls for action and to contribute to solutions, especially if there is a strong connection to business and economy, which there usually is. Importantly, investors’ role is not confined to providing financing. This understanding is progressively getting better, but there is still quite some way to go to break down silos.
Let’s remember to actively appreciate all the companies and investors that are genuinely committed to having a positive impact.
“In most cases, it would be more efficient for everyone involved to explore common ground and maximise synergies rather than pursue parallel paths. It would also be a shame for investors to miss out on the chance to hear and share experiences and expertise in forums not explicitly marketed for the investor community. I have systematically tried to raise this point with event organisers and in my discussions with non-investors. Besides, to provide our investor clients with opportunities to connect with and benefit ‘the rest of the world’, our thematic engagements always have a strong collaborative element, whereby we actively reach out to relevant third parties and seek to leverage existing initiatives whose objectives are aligned with ours.”
Collaboration and genuine commitment are crucial engines for positive change. “Of course there are people and organisations in all parts of the society that are all green words and not much substance, and I find it just as annoying as the next person,” Kaasinen admits. “However, speaking from a personal standpoint, I would like to think that asking for an explanation and encouraging the other party to consider an alternative perspective has a lot better chance of nudging them towards sustainable behaviour than finger-pointing and blacklisting. Parallel to that, let’s remember to actively appreciate all the companies and investors that are genuinely committed to having a positive impact, and hope that their examples inspire others to follow suit,” she concludes.
Read more about Tytti’s approach to Corporate Engagement in this recent issue of NordSIP Insights.
Picture © NordSIP