Van Berkom is stepping up its efforts in the area of responsible investment!
Since its inception in 1991, the Van Berkom team has paid close attention to social and governance aspects in its analyses of portfolio securities and candidate companies, and this has greatly contributed to the success we have achieved to date in all of our investment strategies.
However, while we have historically underweighted the Energy and Materials sectors, resulting in our portfolios generally looking good from an environmental perspective, our position in this area was, up to recently, not yet formalized within our investment process.
Given the climate issues affecting us, the global energy transition and the growing social and governance issues, we believe that companies which are focused on sustainable investment, and which take ESG aspects into account in the development of their business have a better chance of long-term success.
We consider it our responsibility to be able to identify companies’ ESG actions and positioning and to integrate the results of our analyses into our investment decisions.
At the beginning of the year, we began a reflection process with the help of Millani, a consulting firm specialized in the integration of ESG criteria. This reflection led us to develop an action plan to be deployed gradually over the next twelve months that will allow us to position ourselves as a change agent in ESG matters. We are pleased to share the following key actions with you:
We have established an internal ESG Committee that reports directly to the Executive Management Committee; it will be able to rely on the advice and guidance of an Advisory Committee made up of three external members, each with advanced ESG expertise.
We have reviewed our responsible investment policy, which determines our ESG directions. This policy guides the ESG Committee and investment professionals in the deployment of our actions.
We plan to review our proxy voting policy by the end of the first quarter of 2023 to ensure that it better reflects our voting positioning and course of action.
We have developed a proprietary ESG assessment model. In the small-cap equity environment, public information is rather scanty – hence the importance of being able to carry out our own assessment. Our decision-making process entails a due diligence review with company management, and this ensures that such an approach is possible and effective. We expect to complete the assessment of all our portfolios by the end of the third quarter of 2023.
We have hired a specialized data management resource for this purpose. This new resource will allow us to calculate ESG metrics on our portfolios and thus support our team of investment professionals. The members of this team will have sole responsibility for assessing the ESG rating of the companies in the portfolio.
As of 2023, a substantial component of the compensation of all investment professionals will be directly related to their performance in integrating ESG criteria into their investment decisions.
Once we have completed our analysis of all portfolio securities, we intend to establish a systematic and supervised engagement strategy with certain companies in order to support them in their transition to an enhanced ESG valuation.
We have started documenting all of our analyses in greater detail and, as of 2023, we intend to initiate recurring communications with our clients on ESG-related matters.
Although we are still at the beginning of this great project, we are already very proud of the progress made so far. We now have a very clear idea of where we want to go, how we are going to get there and what impact we hope to have with the companies in our portfolios. We are aware, however, that the market will continue to evolve and that we will constantly have to make adjustments.
We aim to communicate periodically with our clients on this subject. You will receive relevant updates in 2023. In the meantime, you may contact the lead portfolio manager of your strategy, or one of the following people: