We find majorities or significant minorities of the largest global corporations collect a variety of human capital (HC) metrics of increasing interest to institutional investors. These averages mask a sharp dichotomy between metrics disclosed publicly and those reported by respondents to an annual survey of nearly 2,000 of the largest firms traded on global exchanges. For example, about half of these companies report the average hours of training they provided to employees annually. But the figure was dramatically higher for respondents, at 84 percent, versus just 18 percent of firms assessed using public reporting. Similarly, while 52 percent of firms publicly report employee fatalities, 96 percent of survey respondents disclosed the metrics, but only 17 percent of publicly assessed companies. Comparable differentials were found across other measures. The findings suggest that investors could gain access to HC data that is material to financial performance if they request public disclosure of information already gathered by a critical mass of large corporations in major markets. However, the reporting differs among regions and countries such as the United States and Great Britain, as well as between large market cap companies compared with smaller ones.
Despite the size of what has been termed the “Islamic Finance market” – currently in the range of $2 Trillion – and the expectation that it will, in coming years, continue to grow rapidly, many investors have little or no familiarity with it. Precisely what is meant by the phrase varies. It might be cast as finance, the understanding and practice of which is informed in some measure by “the Islamic narrative”; that is, accounts of the world and the place of people within and their relations to it drawn from the constellation of beliefs, commitments, and practices associated with Islam. The paper seeks to introduce investors to the potential relevance and significance of Islamic Finance for the decisions that they make. It does so through an exploration of views about the “real” in three related senses: prominent efforts, within the context of Western finance, to promote investment in so-called “real assets”; especially in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, concern about “financialization,” particularly as it pertains to ideas about and the relationships between a so-called “real economy” and a/the financial sector or sphere; and the importance of notions of the “real” which are quite prominent in characterizations of the conceptual underpinnings for and the practice of Islamic finance.
Much attention has been given by pension funds and other institutional investors to governance and in some measure environmental considerations in their investment-related decisions, spurred by either by normative concerns and/or their impact on financial performance. However, very little has been done in the latter terms with respect to what are often termed social considerations, which include work-related matters. This publication represents an effort to begin to remedy that problem.
More particularly, of the many published studies of human capital policies, the paper examines 92 that focus on the links to corporate financial performance. A large majority of the studies – covering a period of two decades and encompassing dozens of countries and industries - reported positive correlations. The paper summarizes key aspects of the research, reviews the methods and approaches they employ, and discusses strengths of and limitations to the findings. Overall, the paper suggests that human capital management can be material to a company’s financial performance. It recommends the kinds of information which investors should seek – among them, about the array of a company’s human capital policies, their relationship to one another, and their link to the company’s business strategy, and measures outcomes and financial impacts – and companies should provide.
This paper has three main parts. First, we briefly explore arguments grounded in fiduciary duty (and others within the “shadow” of law) as well as others rooted in the real-world social, political, and other environment in which pension funds may operate which might justify why they might make or recognize such commitments.
Second, we explore in great depth how pension funds might proceed in those terms. We discuss the standards, criteria, etc. of which pension funds might take to take account or apply. But we suggest that the major challenge relates to the systems, processes, capacities, resources, etc. which they have in place to ensure fulfillment of that commitment. In turn we describe and analyze the extensive experience in these terms of other major financial institutions, namely, international development finance institutions (DFIs), for example, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and somewhat similar national ones well that of the financial institution signatories (EPFIs) to what are termed the so-called Equator Principles (EP).
We then canvas important “cross-cutting issues”, ones which play out among many investors, for example, the matter of the relationship between how environmental and social considerations are addressed in investments and the financial performance of those investments. We also take a close look at practice relating to implementation of one aspect of standards involving social considerations, namely, labor-related standards. In addition, we draw on the relatively greater transparency of a large Dutch pension fund to offer some insights into how it goes about translating its commitments into action.
The last part of the essays distills from the preceding ones a series of “lessons learned.” That is, it offers recommendations as to what pension funds might need or want to think and then, what they might need or want to do should they choose to adopt standards relating to environmental and social considerations and, in turn, pursue a serious-minded effort to assure that those standards are met.
The focus of the paper is on retirement plans whose members derive financial claims directly or indirectly from financial investments made by them or by others on their behalf (as contrasted with what are termed “pay-as-you-go” plans). Central to the efficacy of funded plans are the roles and responsibilities of those with ultimate authority to make the required investment- related decisions and effective fulfillment of them by those to whom we refer to as “investment decision-makers”.) Although the matter of efficacy quite obviously is rooted in concern for sought-for outcomes for individual plan members there are also significant implications for the larger economy and society. Discussion with respect to those roles and responsibilities often falls in whole or part under the rubric of what is termed “fiduciary duty”; however, there are other important and related roles and responsibilities which occasion the choice of title for the paper.
More particularly, it considers key issues encompassed by discourse in India and the United States pertaining to fiduciary duty as they concern investment decision makers. In part the premise is that there can be much that each country can learn from the other in view of their different experiences in that regard. In part it is also in recognition of the fact that retirement plans in each country have made or may make investments in the other and that insofar as such investments might be mutually desirable having a sufficient understanding of how fiduciary duty shapes the expectations and channels the needs of plan members is critical to achievement of that shared goal.
In our view the available literature in these terms has been modest indeed so in a number of respects it has been unchartered territory. Moreover, the retirement systems in both countries are composed of a range of rather different kinds of plans, many of which have a rich and varied history and diverse associated institutions, policies, and practices the attributes of which are not immediately or readily made transparent or accessible, especially to those in another country.
With that in mind, this paper sets the stage for and makes an initial foray into debate in both countries in relevant terms, identifying key concepts and modes of thinking and implementation. We strive to flesh out the foregoing by an in-depth illustrative discussion of the issues as they relate to one important kind of plan within the retirement system of each country. We do so with any eye to structuring the analysis to establish the basis for an inquiry in a subsequent essay with not only potentially greater depth but also a broader reach in terms of the types of plans canvassed. In the concluding section of this paper we offer what might be termed observations but which may also be viewed as recommendations for others concerned with these issues, especially those with authority as to what fiduciary duty should entail. That being said we do so recognizing that given the distinctive experience of each country those observations (or recommendations) may have greater or less import or play out in a different way.
Second in a series of papers, the first entitled ‘Infrastructure: Defining Matters’
This paper builds upon the understanding of infrastructure developed in “Infrastructure:Defining Matters.” Through a primarily case study approach it explores in-depth a particular method of deciding upon infrastructure investments and identifies ways that decision-making can be strengthened drawing upon that understanding and a revised version of the linked categories for analysis based on them, which were described in the previous publication.
This paper is resource for pension funds in two ways. One is to help them gain a more useful understanding of what infrastructure “is” or might be believed to “be.” The other is to suggest how that understanding relates to ways of thinking about infrastructure and how those ways, in turn, are linked to choices about infrastructure investments for their portfolios. The analysis and findings are based in part on a survey of U.S. public sector pension funds which have made such investments.
Nine companies this month launched a process to test newly-developed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to assess reputational risks and operational shortcomings associated with labor and human rights factors in corporate supply chains. Collectively, these companies source goods from 1,755 factories that employ around 1.8 million workers in 62 countries. Once tested, finalized, and implemented, these standardized KPIs could allow interested parties to assess companies’ progress toward reducing labor and human rights risks.
Prepared at the request of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI), this report benchmarks the supply-chain labor and human rights policies of the S&P/ASX 200 (ASX 200) against 2,500 of the largest global companies building on the work of the Project’s previous publication “Benchmarking Corporate Policies on Labor and Human Rights in Global Supply Chains,” (Occasional Paper No. 5) On the whole, the ASX 200 companies lag their peers in other listed markets, with a mere 17% issuing a labor and human rights policy covering their supply chain, versus 35% in the global sample. This trend carries across when analyzing company procedures to implement policies. There is some exception to this pattern for occupational health and safety policies of ASX 200 companies, which were notably strong, which may reflect the impact of strict health and safety legislation in Australia. The largest Australian companies (by market capitalization) also managed to measure up to their global peers on a number of indicators. The majority of ASX 200 firms however paled in comparison to the performance of the global sample
This paper reviews: (1) what typically are seen as important near- or short-term causes linked to the financial crisis, (2) the kinds of individual and institutional behaviors that many believe contributed to these causes, (3) the most important among the provisions of recently enacted financial markets reform legislation – the Dodd-Frank Act – ostensibly calculated to change those behaviors, and (4) some critical perspective on whether the provisions are suited to the task.
Households in the United States face serious challenges to enjoying income security in retirement. This paper critically appraises two policy initiatives ostensibly geared to helping to meet those challenges. One already embodied in law - the federal Pension Protection Act of 2006 (the "Act") - and the other in the form of Obama administration and legislative proposals, use automatic enrollment in employment-based defined contribution (DC) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts, respectively, along with default investments as means toward that end.
The paper describes the rationales offered at the time for the Act's provisions, the manner in which the enacted policies have been implemented, and how effective they have been and are likely to be. It assesses the strength of the evidence available at the time to support advocates' contentions that automatic enrollment would be a success. It then considers the post-enactment literature on the outcomes of automatic enrollment. It follows with a review of the literature on persistence (over time) of contributions to defined contribution (DC) plans and how realistic or justifiable were expectations for the success of the Act's provisions. The paper then characterizes the IRA proposals and examines studies of the persistence of contributions to IRAs. Next it evaluates the workings and outcomes of New Zealand's KiwiSaver scheme, the one already in operation which most closely resembles what proponents urge should be done with respect to IRAs. Finally, drawing on the findings and observations in the preceding sections, the paper offers a broader perspective on the directions policy should take if there is to be a serious prospect of ensuring retirement income security for all households in this country.
Near majorities of large corporations have labor and human rights (LHR) policies covering their global supply chains, although far fewer have established follow-up monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. LHR supply-chain policies are also close to the norm among European companies, with the United States and Asia lagging behind. These findings are contained in the first study to benchmark LHR policies among the 2,500 companies found on the major stock market indices. The study was done by Pensions Project Senior Fellow Aaron Bernstein and Christopher Greenwald, Director of Data Content at the Swiss firm ASSET4, using ASSET4 data.
This paper explores how pension funds and other investors can obtain data on the long- term sustainability risks posed by the labor and human rights (LHR) activities of global corporations, with a specific focus on supply chains. It should be read as a companion piece to Bernstein's “Incorporating Labor and Human Rights Risk into Investment Decisions" (Occasional Paper, No. 2)
Pension funds are increasingly giving thought to investment in infrastructure in an effort to achieve substantial and stable returns that are a match for funds' long-term liabilities. This paper describes risk, reward, and other financial considerations that bear on that thinking. The paper also discusses concerns about the job and labor implications of such investments and pension fund and other response to those concerns.
Mainstream investors for the first time are beginning to assess labor and human rights factors as a way of increasing returns and lowering risk as part of a broader movement in the investment world to include corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) behavior into portfolio and lending decisions. However, the paper also describes why investment analysis of labor and human rights poses some of the most difficult challenges in the emerging ESG field.
•Experiments in Public Sector Pension Fund Design •Accounting for Pension Fund Risk and Reward • A Code of Conduct for Pension Trustees • CEO Pay as a Proxy for Good Corporate Governance • Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution Investment Returns Compared • Labor, Human Rights and Investment Risk
•Understanding the Turmoil in Financial Markets • ...What to Do • 401(k)s Fall Short of Funding an Adequate Retirement • Can VEBAs Alleviate Retiree Health Care Woes • Effective Labor Representation on Pension Boards
The 2007 negotiations between the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Detroit automakers have focused national attention on a potentially innovative response to the long-term decline in retiree health insurance in the United States. The union agreed that an independent trust called a Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association (VEBA) will assume responsibility for UAW retiree medical care at the three automakers. Other unionized employers now are looking at these so-called defeasance VEBAs as a way to free themselves of burdensome health-care legacy costs. An analysis of the largest one, at GM, suggests that the concept is a second-best option for unions able to retain employer-paid retiree coverage. However, it may be a viable alternative for those unable to fend off unilateral elimination by an employer. Both private- and public-sector unions and employers can draw important lessons from the defeasance VEBA agreed to by the UAW and GM, which will deploy innovative tactics to distribute cost and risk amongst the company, workers, and retirees. More broadly, the new VEBAs illuminate a gaping hole in the federal tax code, which offers few incentives for employees to save for postemployment medical needs even as employers have shifted the responsibility on them to do so. A VEBA is a flexible vehicle that could provide the most tax-efficient savings method for workers whose employer doesn’t offer retiree coverage. However, changes in federal law likely would be required for the concept to become widespread.
• Point/Counterpoint: Infrastructure Investments • What trustees can learn from San Diego • Putting labor rights into investment decisions • Trustee Perspective • Sharing retirement-funding risk: The Dutch Solution