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Standard Life Investments Ethical Corporate Bond Ret Acc (OEIC/Unit Trust)

SRI Style: Ethically Balanced
Fund Type: OEIC/Unit Trust
Region: UK
Asset Type: Fixed Interest
Launch Date: 02/11/2005

SRI / Ethical Overview

The Ethical Corporate Bond Fund aims to provide a level of income, before charges, above that available on UK Government bonds by investing predominantly in investment grade bonds. The fund is actively managed by our investment teams who may invest in a wide range of bonds (e.g. corporate bonds including sub investment grade bonds, overseas bonds, index-linked bonds, floating rate notes (FRNs) and asset backed securities (ABSs) and/or money market instruments) in order to take advantage of opportunities they have identified and which meet our strict ethical criteria. These criteria are agreed with the Standard Life Ethical Funds Advisory Group and may be amended from time to time if considered appropriate. The fund manager will exclude companies which fail to meet the ethical criteria whilst seeking to include companies whose business activities are regarded as making a positive contribution to society.

 

SRI / themed / ethical assets under management – overview: 

  • Fund Size (GBP):   £389.0 million    as of 31 May 2017
  • Total value of SRI/ethical/environmental/ social/ environmental or sustainability themed funds under management:   £11 billion    as of 31 December 2017
  • Total assets under management:   Aberdeen Standard Investments has a total of £575.7 billion assets under management as of 31 December 2017

 

SRI Policies (Primary strategy in bold)

  • Environmental policy Find investment funds with environmental policies - ie that consider issues such as pollution, climate change, resource management, environmental impact. This will include options from all of the different SRI Styles, including funds where their core strategy is to focus on other areas such as ethical funds. See fund information for fund specific policy details.
  • 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.
  • Sustainability policy Find fund options that consider issues relating to the sustainability agenda (e.g. resource management, environmental impact, climate change and/or social issues such as equal opportunities, human rights and adherence to recognised codes). This will include funds from all of the different SRI Styles. See fund information for explanations of the different strategies.
  • Social policy Find fund options that consider social issues (e.g. human rights, labour standards, equal opportunities, child labour and adherence to internationally recognised codes such as the UN Global Compact). This will include funds in most of the different SRI Styles as this is considered a core issue. See fund information for detail.
  • 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.
  • Animal welfare policy Find ethical fund options that have policies that require specific animal welfare standards to be adopted by investee companies in order for them to be considered for inclusion within the fund.
  • Animal testing exclusion policy Find ethical investment options that avoid companies that are involved in testing their products on animals. Ethical fund strategies vary - some exclude all companies that test on animals, others allow companies that test for medical purposes or where required by law. Read fund details for fund specific information.
  • 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.
  • Health & wellbeing policies Find ethical or sustainable investment fund options that have a policy which supports (ie aims to invest in) companies that are viewed as offering positive lifestyle, health or wellbeing related benefits.
  • Nuclear exclusion policy Find ethical funds (and other options) that have a published policy that sets out the fund's position on avoiding or limiting exposure to nuclear power. See fund literature for details of their policy.
  • Coal, oil &/or gas majors excluded Find sustainable investment and ethical fund options that avoid significant involvement in coal, oil and/or gas producing companies. Funds vary. See individual fund literature to confirm 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.
  • Invests in clean energy/renewables Find ethical, sustainable investment and other environmentally aware fund options that aim to invest in companies in the clean technology and renewable energy sectors. Fund strategies vary. Some funds may have limited exposure to this area, others may have significant exposure. Check fund literature for details.
  • 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

  • RSMR Rated Find funds that are rated by research agency 'Rayner Spencer Mills Research' (awarded 'RSMR SRI Rated' status). Read fund literature on contact RSMR for further information.
  • Positive selection bias Find funds where their main 'ethical approach' is to invest in companies that are considered to be positive/good or useful to people and/or the environment. The fund may also have negative avoidance criteria - see fund details to read more about fund strategies.
  • 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.
  • Eurosif transparency Find funds that meet the standards of the EUROSIF transparency Code. This means that they are a leading fund in terms of openness and transparency, publishing - for example - extensive information about where they invest and how they deal with companies.
  • Favours cleaner, greener companies Find funds that aim to nvest in companies with strong environmental policies and practices. This may mean it invests in smaller companies offering market leading environmental services or products and/or larger companies that are working towards the improved management of their negative impacts. 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.
  • Strictly screened ethical fund Find funds that have a high level of negative ethical avoidance. These funds are likely to exclude more companies than other ethical (and SRI) fund options. 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.
  • Responsible Ownership policy for non SRI funds Find funds run by fund managers that apply Responsible Ownership or 'Stewardship' policies to all or most of their investment assets. This means that active involvement (e.g. voting, dialogue) with the companies they invest in across funds (not normally limited to ethical or SRI options.) 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 votes or aims to vote all* the shares they own at Annual General Meetings and Extraordinary General Meetings. A commitment to voting shares is a key indicator of 'responsible share ownership' - where fund managers consider - and express their views on - the key business issues effecting the companies they part own. (*Allowance is made for exceptional situations such as when shares are in the process of being sold.)
  • 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

While we recognise the personal nature of everyone’s ethics, we aim to ensure that the funds are reflective of the wider views of those who invest in them. We regularly review the criteria, both positive and negative, through customer surveys and consultations to ensure they remain relevant and industry leading.

 

Positive Criteria

Using positive criteria, we favour companies that are involved in activities that benefit society and the environment. We use the UN Global Compact to define the four areas where we seek positive business practices and services.

 

  • Environment: We seek to invest in companies that have a positive impact on the environment, and contribute to environmental protection and enhancement through its products and services.
  • Human Rights & Community: We seek companies that respect and support the human rights of those affected by its business, offer products and services that provide access to some of the world’s most basic rights, and have strong relationships within their communities.
  • Employment: We seek to invest in companies that have strong labour practices, and implement strong safety, health and welfare policies.
  • Anti-bribery & Corruption: We favour investment in companies that uphold the highest standards of business ethics and demonstrate strong anti-corruption policies, and adopted and embed a code which encourages employees to follow principles of good business behaviour and positive corporate culture.

 

Corporate Governance

The funds adopt a formal corporate governance policy. We actively vote at the AGMs of the companies held in the funds. Due consideration is given to issues such as board independence, excessive remuneration and audit issues. Voting is conducted within the terms of the Ethical Funds Investment Policy and in the best of interests of the investors in the funds.

 

In addition, the funds will adopt a policy of voting:

  • against the Chairman of any company where the board fails to have set policy, have oversight or take responsibility for environmental, social, health & safety and human rights issues.
  • against members of any health, safety and environment committee where insufficient oversight has resulted in poor performance in these areas.

 

Engagement

The fund pursues an active engagement policy. We engage with companies on a range of environmental and social issues with the aim that good corporate behaviour is adopted by the companies in which the funds invest. Where engagement proves ineffective and concerns remain over corporate behaviour and oversight of these issues, we will disinvest from a company. It is our ambition that this active engagement will challenge and encourage companies in which the funds invest to improve their environmental and social performance and practices.

 

Negative Criteria

If a company is involved in the activities listed below, the funds will avoid investment in them.

  • Environmental damage and pollution
  • Weapons
  • Human rights abuses
  • Nuclear
  • Alcohol production
  • Animal  testing
  • Animal husbandry
  • Fur
  • Pornography
  • Marketing breast milk substitutes
  • Tobacco
  • Gambling
  • Poor business practices

 

The funds will also avoid companies that have failed one or more of the ten principles of the UN Global Compact.

Resources, Affiliations & Corporate Strategies

In conjunction with the fixed income teams’ research and stock selection process, our 20-strong dedicated Stewardship and ESG Investment Team manages the ethical screening process. Based on research and engagement with companies, the Team scores companies on their policies, management systems, performance and reporting. Our ratings benchmark companies against others in their sector using a proprietary, in-house assessment tool. The Team uses a number of resources to inform their view, e.g. external research providers, public information, controversy screening and our own internal analysis and engagement.

                                                                                             

Third party external research providers are sourced to determine the screens applied to our ethical funds. The screens are updated on a monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the source. The Stewardship and ESG Investment Team has established robust processes for regularly updating the application of ethical screens to different indices, reviews the analysis and will upgrade/downgrade companies if their analysis of the company differs from the provider's. In the majority of cases, the Team will provide an internal audit of the analysis and engage with the excluded company to verify the findings. 

                                                                                                                                                      

The list of acceptable and unacceptable companies based on our ethical criteria is reviewed on a quarterly basis and daily checks are made by our independent Investment Restriction Controls Team to verify that no unacceptable companies are held in any of the ethical portfolios. Any issues encountered are discussed immediately with the ESG Investment Team.

 

In addition, from 1998, Standard Life Investments has had an Ethical Funds Advisory Group, whose role is to ensure that our Ethical Policy is being applied correctly. As well as four senior managers at Standard Life Investments, three individual investors are members of the Group to provide investor input. Group members work to keep informed of and monitor ethical issues which are of concern to investors, through reports from our internal teams and presentations by organisations involved in issues of concern, among others.

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