Whole Risk, Whole Opportunity: The ESG implications of Amazon’s Whole Foods Acquisition

Amazon’s expansionism has brought it into multicategory retailing, consumer electronics, cloud computing, logistics and media production. Now, with its recent USD 13.7bn acquisition of Whole Foods Market, it strides into brick-and-mortar grocery retailing. As Amazon expands in all directions, so does the frontier of its ESG risks and opportunities. How do grocery stores fit into Amazon’s customer-obsessed technocracy? And how will it use the Whole Foods brand, built on a foundation of upmarket ethical consumerism?

Fox Sky Takeover: Why Content Governance Matters

The power of media companies to shape societal dialogue and act as gatekeepers of content is coming under increased scrutiny. This is starting to impact the industry as demonstrated in the challenges American media giant Twenty-First Century Fox (Fox) is facing in its proposed GBP 11.7 billion (USD 15 billion) takeover of UK broadcaster Sky plc.

Will the Consolidation in the Chemical Industry change its ESG Risk Profile?

When the stock market closes today, the DowDuPont merger will officially be finalized and the new entity will start trading under the ticker DWDP (as of September first). This is the most recent – and certainly one of the most significant – mergers in an industry that has seen unprecedented consolidation. But what are the social and environmental ramifications of this consolidation and does it risk changing the industry’s ESG risk profile?

Uber’s ESG Risks—is the new CEO up to the Challenge?

Uber, the ride hailing company, recently appointed Dara Khosrowshahi as CEO. His appointment comes in the wake of intensifying criticism of the company. Uber is accused of having a hostile workplace culture, mistreating its drivers and using software tools to evade regulators. What are the root causes of these issues, which Khosrowshahi will need to address if he wants to get the company back on track?

Wall Street Banks Face Mounting Shareholder Pressure to Address Gender Pay Gap

Gender diversity and equality are increasingly coming under the spotlight on Wall Street (see also The Fearless Girl Beckons). The 2017 proxy season was no different. Activist investors, such as Arjuna Capital and Pax World Management, actively targeted Wall Street banks, encouraging them to tackle the gender pay gap.

What will the TCFD mean for Oil and Gas Producers?

Building on the momentum created by the “Aiming for A” resolutions and the Paris Agreement, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) published its recommendations for disclosing climate-related risks in June. How will these new guidelines affect the oil and gas industry and can investors leverage them in their engagement efforts?

What ESG Issues will Investors Face as the Electric Vehicle Market Gears up?

On 2 July 2017, Elon Musk tweeted that the first Model 3 would be delivered by the end of the month and that Tesla plans to ramp up production to 20,000 units by December. The announcement is a strong indication that the electric vehicles (EVs) revolution may be approaching faster than expected, driven by a favorable combination of political, technological and market trends. This is certainly a positive development, however, even in the world of clean tech, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues abound. Companies and investors alike will need to manage related risks carefully.

Are Subprime Auto Loans the Next Bubble?

Through the course of our research, we’ve seen a significant increase in media coverage surrounding the U.S. auto loan market. Headlines highlight an increase in delinquency and default rates, a prevalence of deep subprime auto loans, lower vehicle deliveries and higher inventories. Reminiscent of the financial crisis, many investors are asking whether this is the next bubble and what they can do to manage related ESG risks.

Sizing up the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

President Trump’s announcement last week that he will pull the US out of the Paris Agreement is unlikely to have any meaningful impact on clean energy transition. This is because the global pivot to renewable energy is increasingly being driven by economic fundamentals, not policy (an argument we made in our deep dive of the Paris Agreement in January 2016).

WannaCry: A Cybersecurity Wake Up Call

The recent Wanna, also called WannaCry, ransomware attack once again highlighted the importance of cybersecurity and protecting online data and systems. In our 10 for 2017 report, we argue that such attacks are likely to increase in frequency and intensity making it prudent for investors to integrate cybersecurity risk management into their investment decision making processes. Understanding these risks is crucial since most companies provide poor visibility into their ability to proactively manage such threats.

Dieselgate: Opening a New Era for the Auto Industry?

On 23 May 2017, German prosecutors raided Daimler AG’s offices in Stuttgart as part of their investigation into alleged emissions fraud. The company’s shares have since tumbled 4.3 percent. Daimler’s experience is the latest reminder that investing in clean technologies is money better spent than paying penalties for non-compliance in an increasingly stringent regulatory environment.

Fair Living Wages in the Garment Sector: The Case of Bangladesh

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the deadliest accident in the garment industry. On 24 April 2013, the collapse of the Rana Plaza Building in Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh resulted in the death of 1,200 workers and left several thousand injured. The tragedy was linked primarily to poor health and safety practices, but it also highlighted the intense wage pressure in Bangladesh’s garment industry. This issue is becoming more pressing with disputes over minimum wages having resulted in massive social unrest in December 2016 and January 2017.

Potential ESG Risks in the US Health Care Industry

The US health care industry is facing some uncertainty under the current administration. Recent news coverage focused primarily on the failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but question marks related to deregulation and pricing remain. Investors will need to monitor developments closely to ensure they proactively manage emerging ESG risks.

Tobacco Mergers: Can You Buy the Brand but Leave the Health Liability?

Due to the success of anti-smoking campaigns and regulation, tobacco companies are increasingly struggling with a dwindling customer base. This has led to a wave of consolidation in an effort to maximize profits through industries of scale. As these behemoths gobble each other up and cigarette brands change hands, it leads investors to question what happens to the societal liabilities attached to them.

The Fearless Girl Beckons: Tracking Gender Diversity

The Fearless Girl stands in front of the Charging Bull, her hands on her waist, her stare strong and defiant. She challenges Wall Street’s bull, which has long symbolized strength and prosperity in a male-dominated corporate culture. She also is a poignant representation of the growing demand for greater gender diversity.

Palm Oil’s Evolving ESG Risk Profile: Can Issuers Cope?

The use of palm oil has become commonplace in packaged food and personal care products. This ubiquity is stimulating the rapid growth of the market. While this growth is creating several opportunities for investors, it is also exposing them to a growing number of ESG risks.

Waste Not, Want Not – Water Use in the Semiconductor Industry

This year’s theme for World Water Day is wastewater. It was aptly chosen given the United Nations’ prediction of a 55% increase in global water demand by 2050 (compared to 2000). To meet this demand, companies will need to manage (waste)water far more efficiently than they do today. The risk of failing to do so becomes concrete when you look at a water-intensive industry such as semiconductors.

#DeleteUber: The Changing Face of Consumer Boycotts?

In late January 2017, 200,000 Uber users deleted their accounts in just one week. Meanwhile, the company’s closest competitor, Lyft, surpassed Uber in the number of daily iOS downloads for the first time. This consumer action formed part of the #DeleteUber campaign on social media. Given the campaign’s impact, it is important to ask how it differs from more traditional consumer boycotts and what investors can learn from it.

Can Country ESG Research Help You Identify Risks in Your Sovereign Bond Portfolio?

In recent years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of investors that integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into their fixed income strategies. This is especially true when it comes to corporate bonds. The use of our Country Risk Research & Ratings in sovereign bond investments is however still comparatively new and clients often ask me how our research can support them.

Finding Value Through Thematic ESG Investing

On January 25th Sustainalytics published 10 for 2017: Investment themes in a changing world, the fourth installment in our 10 for series. As the title suggests, the report looks at thematic ESG investing.