Warning: members of the public are being contacted by people claiming to work for AXA Investment Managers UK Limited.  Find out more information and what to do by clicking here.

Investment Institute

Impact Engagement Principles Delivering on the UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • 07 October 2020 (3 min read)

Executive summary

  • AXA IM believes that significant positive societal impact can be generated through listed assets investment strategies. This is the case for capital allocation into best-in-class companies, and for engagement with companies where there is scope for change.
  • Engagement is an important route for investors in listed assets – public equities and corporate bonds in particular – to drive impact through their actions. When done right, intervention by investors can contribute to broader societal goals, such as those set out in the Paris climate agreement or in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • However, there is a risk of characterising business-as-usual environmental, social and governance (ESG) engagement as ‘impact engagement’ simply because there may be overlaps with the SDGs. We believe that this is not sufficiently ambitious.
  • We believe that ‘impact engagement’ is a specific and distinct approach to active ownership. It is differentiated from broader and well-established approaches to ESG-related engagement.
  • In this paper, we propose an approach to ‘impact engagement’ which is strategic in nature and has objectives that, if successfully achieved, will lead to meaningfully positive outcomes. It will often focus on how capital can be allocated to drive the future ambitions of the company’s core activities, in line with the SDGs. It goes beyond gaining insights into a company’s operational performance, mitigating risks of negative externalities or improving sustainability reporting.

Impact investment has emerged as a distinct approach from sustainable investment in the past decade. It is defined as investments made with the intention to generate positive social and environmental impact alongside financial returns. This is often framed by the urgent need to deliver on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

AXA IM established its framework for impact investment in listed assets in 2019 – for full details please refer to our report: “Driving impact in listed asset investments.”1

We identified two ways of generating positive impact in listed assets. One approach involves identifying best-inclass companies (which we categorise as ‘Impact Leaders’), while the second focuses on engagement.

In the first approach, allocation of capital to Impact Leaders supports capital raisings and contributes to market price signals for securities. This encourages Impact Leaders to sustain positive strategies, while creating an incentive for other companies to replicate those strategies.

The second approach centres on the role of investor as the change-agent through engagement. This is the focus of this paper. We believe that investors can generate positive impact in listed assets through engaging with companies to drive significant change. Companies do not need to be identified as Impact Leaders to be engagement targets – rather, positive impact is derived from the change that is encouraged by investor engagement.

  • IEFYQSBJbnZlc3RtZW50IE1hbmFnZXJzOiDigJxEcml2aW5nIGltcGFjdCBpbiBsaXN0ZWQgYXNzZXQgaW52ZXN0bWVudHPigJ0sIEFwciAyMDE5

    Not for Retail distribution

    This document is intended exclusively for Professional, Institutional, Qualified or Wholesale Clients / Investors only, as defined by applicable local laws and regulation. Circulation must be restricted accordingly.

    This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute investment research or financial analysis relating to transactions in financial instruments as per MIF Directive (2014/65/EU), nor does it constitute on the part of AXA Investment Managers or its affiliated companies an offer to buy or sell any investments, products or services, and should not be considered as solicitation or investment, legal or tax advice, a recommendation for an investment strategy or a personalized recommendation to buy or sell securities.

    It has been established on the basis of data, projections, forecasts, anticipations and hypothesis which are subjective. Its analysis and conclusions are the expression of an opinion, based on available data at a specific date.

    All information in this document is established on data made public by official providers of economic and market statistics. AXA Investment Managers disclaims any and all liability relating to a decision based on or for reliance on this document. All exhibits included in this document, unless stated otherwise, are as of the publication date of this document. Furthermore, due to the subjective nature of these opinions and analysis, these data, projections, forecasts, anticipations, hypothesis, etc. are not necessary used or followed by AXA IM’s portfolio management teams or its affiliates, who may act based on their own opinions. Any reproduction of this information, in whole or in part is, unless otherwise authorised by AXA IM, prohibited.

    Issued in the UK by AXA Investment Managers UK Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK. Registered in England and Wales, No: 01431068. Registered Office: 22 Bishopsgate, London, EC2N 4BQ. In other jurisdictions, this document is issued by AXA Investment Managers SA’s affiliates in those countries.

    Risk Warning

    The value of investments, and the income from them, can fall as well as rise and investors may not get back the amount originally invested.