The global coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis. The human, economic and financial impacts have already been huge, and it is not yet clear how quickly the virus will be brought under control and normal economic activity can resume.
BMO GAM’s Responsible Investment team has been considering the impact of the coronavirus on the ESG agenda. We are co-operating with other investors to provide companies with a united message on our expectations of how they should respond – we have co-signed the Investor Statement on Coronavirus Response1 and would encourage other investors to do the same.
With the rapidly-developing situation, we are still in the early stages of understanding the impact that COVID-19 will have. However, some important implications are already emerging.
Company attention to sustainability issues
Our engagement is aimed at elevating the importance of sustainability issues at companies, and where possible, at getting Board-level attention focused on them. With companies rightly focused on the immediate crisis, it is likely to be difficult to get Boards to spend time on sustainability topics. Our engagement will be respectful that priorities have changed, but we will also aim to ensure that sustainability issues are not forgotten, and that companies continue to make progress where they can. Even in a time of short-term crisis, we need to keep our eyes on the long-term investment horizon.
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