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Sarasin Responsible Corporate Bond (OEIC/Unit Trust)

Logo for Sarasin Responsible Corporate Bond
SRI Style: Sustainability Themed
Fund Type: OEIC/Unit Trust
Region: UK
Asset Type: Fixed Interest
Launch Date: 14/11/2016

SRI / Ethical Overview

The Fund seeks to achieve long term income and capital returns from a diversified portfolio of ethically screened corporate bonds and other credit instruments. In addition to a rigorous credit selection process, the Fund avoids investment in companies which are materially engaged in certain sectors, including the production or distribution of tobacco, alcohol, armaments, gambling and adult entertainment. The Investment Manager purposefully favours exposure to organisations that, in its view, fulfil an environmentally or socially beneficial role and that employ high standards of governance.

Sarasin has an overall bond investment process that specifically examines and evaluates ESG risks as part of our credit research, and applies the conclusions to all of our clients funds (i.e. we have firm-wide “ESG Integration”).  However, the Responsible Corporate Bond Fund goes further than this.  It uses a strict sector exclusion screen (e.g. armaments and tobacco) and applies an ESG protocol to ensure a “minimum standard” across the E, S and G characteristics of an obligor.  There is also a Fund preference for certain sectors (e.g. Housing Association, Charities), but this is not unconditional;  the bonds must also be attractively priced from a purely investment perspective. 

 

SRI / themed / ethical assets under management – overview

  • Fund Size (GBP): £102.7m
  • Total value of SRI/ethical/environmental/ social/ environmental or sustainability themed funds under management: £4bn
  • Total value of assets covered by responsible ownership policy: £14.1bn
  • Total assets under management: £14.1bn

 

SRI Policies (Primary strategy in bold)

  • Ethical policies Find funds with 'traditional' ethical investment policies. These typically focus on avoiding companies that are involved in the armaments industry, tobacco, gambling and/or pornography. Options will include funds where their core strategy or style may be to focus other issues - like sustainability or the environment, not just 'ethical funds'. Strategies vary significantly. Check fund literature for details.
  • Governance policy Find fund options that have policies that relate to corporate governance issues such as board structure, executive remuneration, bribery and/or corporate corruption. These funds will typically avoid companies with poor practices.
  • Tobacco production avoided Find fund options that exclude manufacturers of tobacco (or related) products. This typically relates to ethical funds however funds from other SRI Styles commonly avoid this area also. Strategies vary and funds may invest in retailers of such products (e.g. supermarkets or hotels.) See fund information for further information.
  • Armaments manufacturers avoided Find ethical fund (and other SRI) options that avoid avoids companies that manufacture products intended specifically for military use. Fund strategies vary - particularly with regard to non strategic military products. Read fund literature for specific details.
  • Limits exposure to carbon intensive industries Find environmental, sustainable investment, ethical fund and other options that aim to significantly reduce or limit exposure to carbon intensive industries (ie sectors which are major contributors to climate change). Funds vary - strategies may involve excluding sectors such as coal, oil & gas, mining or airlines - or may indicate a 'best in sector' approach is taken. See fund literature for details.
  • Climate change / GHG policy Find sustainable investment and ethical fund options that pay significant attention to climate change related issues such as greenhouse gas/carbon emissions. Strategies vary, see fund literature for individual fund information.
  • Alcohol production excluded This filter helps you to find ethical funds - and other options - that avoid investment in alcohol production. See fund literature for further information.
  • Fracking and tar sands excluded Find fund options that avoid companies involved in fracking and tar sands - which are widely regarded as more controversial methods of oil and gas extraction.
  • Gambling avoidance policy Find ethical fund options (and other options) that avoid companies with significant involvement in the gambling industry. See fund policy for details.
  • Pornography avoidance policy Find ethical fund option - and in some cases other options - that avoid companies that derive significant income from pornography. See fund details for further information.
  • Human rights Find funds that consider human rights practices when approving companies for investment. Such funds will require decent standards of human rights to be demonstrated - which typically means adherence to international norms as a minimum standard.

SRI Features

  • Negative selection bias Find funds where their main 'ethical approach' is to avoid companies by using negative screening criteria. Read fund literature for further information.
  • Favours companies with strong social policies Find funds that invest in line with positive strategies that relate to 'people' issues - such as having strong human rights, labour standards and equal opportunities practices. Such funds are likely to invest in companies that have market leading standards with regard to employee and supplier practices. Read fund literature for further information.
  • Available via an ISA Find funds that are available via a tax efficient ISA product wrapper

Corporate Activity

  • ESG/SRI engagement Find funds and fund management companies that actively encourages higher 'environmental, social and governance' and/or 'sustainable and responsible investment' practices amongst investee companies - when positive change is aligned with the best interest of investors. This may apply to a single fund or a group of funds. Read fund literature for further information.
  • Integrates ESG factors into all/most fund research Find fund management companies that research environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues when deciding whether or not to invest in a company. This typically applies to all funds, not only those which are promoted as being 'ethical' or 'SRI themed'. This is increasingly often used as a risk management tool.
  • Vote all shares at AGMs/EGMs This fund manager always votes the shares they own at annual general meetings (and extraordinary general meetings). This is a key indicator of 'responsible share ownership' and companies taking an interest in the future of the companies they part own.
  • In house responsible ownership/voting expertise Find fund / fund management companies where there is in-house expertise that enables the fund manager to make their own decisions on issues such as shareholder voting, setting of in-house guidelines - for example - particularly with regard to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
  • Responsible Ownership/ESG a key differentiator The fund managers have said they consider this area to be a key differentiator for their business
  • UK Stewardship Code signatory Find fund managers that are signatories to the FRC UK Stewardship Code, which sets out a framework for constructive investor / investee relations where fund managers are encouraged to behave as responsible 'company owners'.
  • Publish Responsible Ownership/Stewardship report Find fund management companies that publish information on their approach to responsible investment ownership - also known as 'Stewardship' - following the introduction of 'the Stewardship Code'. This sets out their approach to voting, dialogue with company management and any related activity. This is publicly available.
  • Publish full voting record Find fund management companies that publishes a full record of how they vote at AGMs and EGMs. This information is publicly available.
  • Regularly lead collaborative ESG initiatives Find funds managed by fund management companies that regularly initiate or help run industry wide (collaborative) investor projects aimed at raising environmental, social and governance standards amongst investee companies.
  • PRI signatory Find fund management companies that have signed up to the UN backed 'Principles of Responsible Investment' initiative.

SRI / Ethical Policy

The Sarasin Responsible Corporate Bond offers an environmental, social and governance (ESG) proposition to investors seeking exposure to the UK non-gilt (credit) bond market. The Fund will seek to reduce clients’ exposure to ESG risks, and give them greater exposure to ESG opportunities.

The Fund will seek to achieve its investment objectives by active management, both from a "top-down" and "bottom up" perspective. Being a relative return credit fund, corporate credit selection is at the heart of the investment process. In addition to the standard Sarasin credit research process, the Fund uses sector exclusions and an ESG protocol to ensure that investments are appropriate for a responsibility-oriented corporate bond fund.

The fund will exclude companies operating in certain ‘sin’ sectors and avoid exposure to borrowers with poor environmental and social profiles, and which fail to employ acceptable standards of governance from a creditor’s perspective. The fund will not be exclusively a "Green Bond" or "ESG Bond" fund. It will not unconditionally favour any sector, and will aim for appropriate sector diversification.

The Fund will also actively manage country and currency exposure, interest rate risk (duration), yield curve positioning (convexity) and credit sector risk. Yield is a key driver of fixed income clients’ return expectations and this fund will usually seek a running yield in excess of the index.

Resources, Affiliations & Corporate Strategies

The Fund Manager is responsible for the efficient construction and maintenance of the portfolio. The primary role of the Fund Manager is to select investments for the portfolio that have been reviewed by the Credit Analysts and meet the criteria for inclusion. The Manager structures and maintains the portfolio’s investment allocations, giving careful regard to the prospective returns and risks adopted by the portfolio as a whole and the exposures to individual holdings and market sectors. Tactics discussed and agreed by the Fixed Income Committee and the Credit Committee are also implemented. In addition, the Fund Manager is responsible for effecting, directly or indirectly, purchase and sale transactions with trading counterparties, such as brokerages and market makers. As a result, the Fund Manager is ultimately responsible for the day-to-day management and implementation of the Responsible Bond Fund strategy, including ensuring that all of its guidelines are adhered to and that its objectives are pursued.

Credit Analysts specialise in the rigorous examination and monitoring of the financial and business profile of a borrower and the characteristics of its bonds. Their role is to assess the investment merits of an entity or a bond from a creditor’s perspective. This will include a review of the various protections, covenants and collateral offered by a borrower and an assessment of its Environmental, Social, and Governance attributes. Analysts also examine the market valuation of bonds, both relative to other securities from the same borrower and bonds issued by other entities. Ultimately, the Credit Analysts must decide two things. First, whether an investment meets and maintains the high standards for the timely payment of principal and interest that the manager considers necessary before it is willing to commit investors’ capital. Second, form a judgement about whether the risk profile of the investment is appropriately reflected in the prevailing market price.

Sarasin & Partners are signatories to the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investing, have a long history of ethical investment solutions, and an experienced fixed income team.

We draw on the joint expertise of a dual resource: our dedicated stewardship team works alongside our fixed income specialists, providing day to day advice as well as direct involvement in the examination of borderline cases. Our Stewardship team also has the right to add a debt issuer to the Credit Committee agenda, prompting a review and discussion.

Our responsible investment process adds a screening system and an ESG protocol to our core credit process, which is already used for over 30 existing segregated mandates with ethical requirements.

 

 

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