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More Than a Trend? Why Stakeholder Capitalism May Have Staying Power

 

October 2, 2020

 

COMPANIES ONCE JUDGED MAINLY ON PROFITS are increasingly being challenged to show that their operations can help elevate society in addition to share price. It’s an economic shift towards “stakeholder capitalism,” encouraging companies to consider how they can potentially benefit all of their stakeholders—employees, customers and the communities they serve—in addition to their shareholders.

 

“Companies that embrace more climate-friendly business models and operations have the potential to position themselves for sustained growth over the long term.” —Jonathan Kozy, Senior Macro Strategy Analyst in the Chief Investment Office for Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank

“Capitalism and free markets have brought significant economic benefits to the world, but often with unequal consequences,” says Chris Hyzy, Chief Investment Officer for Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank. “Stakeholder capitalism addresses that imbalance,” adds Hyzy, co-author of a new report from the Chief Investment Office (CIO), “The Great Shift: Shareholder to Stakeholder Capitalism.”

 

This shift can go hand in hand with the rising popularity of sustainable and impact investing—seeking benefits for society in addition to financial returns—and the development of more consistent ways to measure companies’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance. On September 22, the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council, chaired by Bank of America Chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan, released standardized “Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics” (SCM). Developed in partnership with the Big Four accounting firms—Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Ernst & Young (EY) and Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG)—the SCMs look beyond traditional financial results at how companies treat their workers, affect the environment and impact the communities where they operate. With this consistent, comparable and measurable information, capital can then be directed towards companies whose goal it is to effectively deliver across stakeholders.

 

Can sustainable companies also be stronger companies?

“Qualities previously seen as ‘nonfinancial’ are increasingly recognized as critically important to financial areas such as revenue growth, operating margins and cost of capital,” says Jackie VanderBrug, Head of Sustainable & Impact Investment Strategy for the CIO. VanderBrug co-authored “The Great Shift” with Hyzy and Jonathan Kozy, Senior Macro Strategy Analyst for the CIO.

 

“We see potential opportunities in renewable energies, electrical vehicles, next-generation batteries, clean technology, energy-efficient electronics and building systems, and clean water and sanitation.” —Jackie VanderBrug, Head of Sustainable & Impact Investment Strategy in the Chief Investment Office for Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank

“Companies that embrace more climate-friendly business models and operations have the potential to position themselves for sustained growth over the long term,” Kozy says. “We believe the shift to stakeholder capitalism has staying power.” As such, investors who recognize this great shift may stand to benefit as well. “Portfolios in the coming years could allocate more capital to assets backed or underpinned by high sustainability, in our view,” Kozy says.

 

Investment strategies to consider

While companies in any industry can take steps to become more sustainable, specific industries may offer special opportunities, VanderBrug notes. “We see potential opportunities in renewable energies, electrical vehicles, next-generation batteries, clean technology, energy-efficient electronics and building systems, and clean water and sanitation.” Another promising area is infrastructure, especially technology infrastructure.

 

As important as ESG considerations may be, Hyzy stresses the importance of making investment decisions within the context of your overall financial goals and broad market trends. “We currently prefer stocks over bonds and large, U.S.-based companies,” he says. “Speak with your advisor about how sustainable investing could help to better position your portfolio for long-term success.”

 

For a closer look at how ESG concerns are altering the landscape for businesses and investors, read “The Great Shift: Shareholder to Stakeholder Capitalism.”

 

Information is as of 10/02/2020.

 

Opinions are those of the author(s), as of the date of this document and are subject to change.

 

Investing involves risk including possible loss of principal.

 

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

 

Asset allocation, diversification and rebalancing do not ensure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets.

 

The Chief Investment Office (CIO) provides thought leadership on wealth management, investment strategy and global markets; portfolio management solutions; due diligence; and solutions oversight and data analytics. CIO viewpoints are developed for Bank of America Private Bank, a division of Bank of America, N.A., (“Bank of America”) and Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (“MLPF&S” or “Merrill”), a registered broker-dealer, registered investment adviser and a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation.

 

Equity securities are subject to stock market fluctuations that occur in response to economic and business developments.

 

Bonds are subject to interest rate, inflation and credit risks.

 

Impact investing and/or Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) managers may take into consideration factors beyond traditional financial information to select securities, which could result in relative investment performance deviating from other strategies or broad market benchmarks, depending on whether such sectors or investments are in or out of favor in the market. Further, ESG strategies may rely on certain values based criteria to eliminate exposures found in similar strategies or broad market benchmarks, which could also result in relative investment performance deviating.

 

Investments focused in a certain industry may pose additional risks due to lack of diversification, industry volatility, economic turmoil, susceptibility to economic, political or regulatory risks and other sector concentration risks.

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