- Votes Against Slavery initiative saw non-compliant FTSE 350 Index companies targeted with investor action
- 2022 marks the third iteration of the campaign
The Votes Against Slavery campaign, co-ordinated through the PRI Collaboration Platform and led by Rathbones’ stewardship team, has won the PRI Awards 2022 ‘Stewardship Initiative of the Year’ award.
The highly acclaimed PRI Awards, judged by an independent panel of experts across a number of relevant disciplines, recognise “individually excellent projects conducted by signatories of all sizes, specialisms and levels of development”.
The PRI, or Principles for Responsible Investment, is a body of investors, supported by the United Nations, which works to create a more sustainable global financial system.
The engagement was spearheaded by Rathbones’ stewardship director Matt Crossman and Archie Pearson, ESG & stewardship analyst - voting lead, and Kazuki Shaw, ESG and stewardship analyst.
The suffering that modern slavery inflicts cannot be ignored. It also has a significant economic impact globally. Modern slavery is estimated to be a $150 billion trade that involves approximately 50 million people in some form of servitude, including forced labour; the sale and trafficking of people; forced and servile marriage and the exploitation of children.
The 2022 initiative, ‘Votes Against Slavery: Engaging with FTSE 350 companies failing to comply with section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015’, includes 122 asset managers, pension funds and institutional investors with assets under management totalling £9.6 trillion. It targeted FTSE 350 companies that had failed to comply with Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
The Act strengthens the ability of the state to tackle this terrible problem. Section 54 requires all companies above a certain size operating in the UK to report in detail on how they find and eliminate modern slavery within their supply chains. But despite this legal requirement, there is currently no legal redress for companies that fail to comply.
Rathbones’ rationale for launching the Votes Against Slavery campaign through the PRI Collaboration Platform was to address this gap in the law, pressure could be brought to bear on laggard companies via direct action from investors.
Letters were sent to the boards of targeted non-complying companies in the first instance. Investors involved in the engagement then indicated their willingness to abstain from voting on the approval of companies’ annual reports and accounts, should no action be taken.
For the 2022 campaign, 38 out of 44 targeted companies are now compliant with section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act.
As a result of previous engagements, 59 out of 61 companies targeted in 2021 became compliant, with the two remaining target companies becoming compliant in January 2022, while 20 out of 22 FTSE 100 companies contacted in 2020 had become compliant by the end of that year.
Matt Crossman, stewardship director, Rathbones said: “We are honoured and humbled to receive this award in recognition of a great deal of incredible work involved in this important project. We are especially thankful for the role played by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, and for the support of all PRI members who joined the coalition in 2022 and in previous years.”
Archie Pearson, ESG and stewardship analyst – voting lead, Rathbones, said: “We are only scratching the surface of the pervasive problem of forced labour. It is our hope that the success of Votes Against Slavery can drive a step-change in company attitudes to human rights due diligence and supply chain reporting. Investors are now stepping up to play their role; we expect companies to go further and faster in their fight against slavery.”
Elizabeth Savage, co-CIO, Rathbone Investment Management, said: "This award is on behalf of all the investors involved in the collaboration; however, we wish to recognise the significant effort put in by Rathbones’ stewardship team, led by Matt Crossman, and congratulate Archie Pearson and Kazuki Shaw in particular who spent a great deal of time undertaking research to inform Rathbones’ leadership approach for the 2022 initiative.”
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Notes to editors:
Matt Crossman, Stewardship Director, Rathbones
Matt is the stewardship director for the group. Overseeing the work of the Stewardship Committee, he ensures active voting at company AGMs, whilst also being the group lead on the integration of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors into the investment process. He also leads thematic engagement with companies on ESG issues, especially that undertaken via the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment.
He is a graduate of the University of Bristol where he studied law, with a particular interest in the administration of environmental law, and also has post-graduate qualifications in Sustainable Development theory and practice. He is a trustee of LoveBristol, and urban regeneration charity, and served on the board of the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility between 2007 and 2012.
Archie Pearson, ESG and Voting Analyst, Rathbones
Archie joined Rathbones in 2018 as a voting and governance analyst. He supports Matt Crossman, on the stewardship team, ensuring informed proxy voting and corporate engagement activities as part of Rathbones’ stewardship policies, and helping to promote the integration of ESG within the investment process.
Prior to Rathbones, Archie worked for Oikocredit in their UK and Ireland offices. During his time there, he worked as a client executive, tasked with generating capital from individuals and institutions.
Archie graduated in 2015 from the University of Edinburgh with a Masters in Theology.
Further information on the PRI Awards can be found here: https://www.unpri.org/showcasing-leadership/the-pri-awards/4189.article
Further information on the Votes Against Slavery campaign can be found here: https://collaborate.unpri.org/group/9031/about
The group of signatories supporting the engagement include the following:
Church Commissioners for England
ESG Portfolio Management GmbH
Ethos Engagement Pool International
Mercy Investment Services
Tweedy, Browne Company LLC
Rathbones Group Plc
Rathbone Group Plc (Rathbones), through its subsidiaries, is one of the UK’s leading providers of investment management services for individuals, charities and professional advisers. This includes discretionary investment management, unit trusts, tax planning, trust and company management, financial advice and banking services. Rathbones manages £57.9 billion of assets (as at 30 September 2022). This includes £10.6 billion managed by Rathbone Unit Trust Management. Rathbones has over 1,400 staff in 15 locations across the UK and Jersey.
Rathbone Investment Management Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Registered office: Port of Liverpool Building, Pier Head, Liverpool L3 1NW. Registered in England No. 1448919. Rathbone Investment Management Limited is part of Rathbone Group Plc. Head office 8 Finsbury Circus London EC2M 7AZ.