Cape Town - Everybody talks about Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues in the corporate world, but an important question to ask is what role the allocators and custodians of other people's money play in the greater outcome of broader society, according to Khaya Gobodo, managing director of Old Mutual Investment Group.
At a smart investment seminar hosted by Old Mutual in Cape Town on Monday, he said transformation is one important aspect with regards to ESG, since SA is an extremely unequal society.
"We know the sustainability of our system is in jeopardy if we don’t give people a foothold to stand on. We want to spark a conversation about this and take the conversation to the next level," said Gobodo.
In an open letter to CEOs of fellow JSE-listed companies, he said the aim is to establish an open dialogue among them regarding issues seen as critical for long-term shared value creation across the SA economy.
"We all talk about ESG in very broad philosophical terms. It is usually an appendix to annual report, but not an integral part in conversations," said Gobodo.
"We say that those days are behind us. We need to talk about how ESG can be the central conversation piece to become an influential concept."
Regarding corporate governance, Gobodo said everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and "where the line" is. For him the problem is that information is not readily available.
"It is all opaque. So, in practical terms, we say we need access to real information to allow us to make judgment calls about companies. That is the kind of engagement we are talking about," he said.
"Let’s really get to the heart of the change we want to create when acting on behalf of the people trusting us."
He emphasised that the open CEO dialogue he has in mind must be two-way street from an engagement point of view.
"It is a call to action and we hope our clients will hold us accountable too," he said.
There have been a number of responses to his call to CEOs.
"The most important thing about the CEO letter is that it is an expression to come and engage with us - or we will come and talk to companies," he said.
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