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Netherlands roundup: Managers back textile industry fair pay initiative

Eight Dutch institutional investors, with combined assets of €725bn, have launched a platform campaigning for fair wages in the textile sector in the developing world.

The investors – including asset managers MN, Kempen, Achmea IM, NN IP and Robeco – have also targeted banning child labour and excessive overtime. 

The Platform Living Wage Financials (PLWF) initiative demanded that textile manufacturers increase the salaries of staff in clothing factories to a ‘living wage’.

“As shareholders, we can make the difference,” said Karlijn van Lierop, head of sustainability at MN. “International organisations and [non-governmental organisations] have been advocating fair pay in the sector for years, but most multinationals pay labourers in poor countries the minimum wage, which is often much lower.”

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Van Lierop said that textile firms would likely speed up wage increases if investors raised the issue. She indicated that the platform expected manufacturers to provide for better wages at their suppliers as well as their own factories.

Previously, engagement between investors and big brands such as H&M, Nike and Inditex had mainly focused on labour conditions and safety, Van Lierop said.

She added: “If parents get paid sufficiently, they can send their children to school. And staff doing not too much overtime can have a better rest, which improves safety in the factories.”

The platform has engaged with 27 textile firms initially, to find out whether they have a policy in place to improve wages in poor countries.

According to Van Lierop, this appeared to be the case at half of the companies, with H&M, Puma, Adidas and PVH – the parent company of fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger – at the forefront.

She said that some of the lower scoring firms didn’t even know the pay level at their suppliers.

PLWF’s second step would be to assess whether policies are applied in practice and whether they lead to higher wages.

APG to move office in cost-cutting move

APG, the €480bn Dutch asset manager and pensions provider, is to leave its offices in Amsterdam’s prestigious Zuidas business district for a cheaper location elsewhere in the Dutch capital.

The company said it would combine all its Amsterdam activities in the building Basisweg 10, near Sloterdijk railway station in the west of the city.

The move – scheduled for 2021 – is estimated to save €87m during a 17-year lease, contributing to a reduction in the provider’s costs per member. It would be paying less for rent and using less energy, APG said, adding that the new office was to become one of the most sustainable buildings in the Netherlands.

APG declined to provide details, but said under an upcoming new contract rent would almost double.

The move will involve 500 APG workers in asset management, administration and communication. They will join another 500 employees already working at the new location, which was previously the office of Cordares, the former pensions provider and asset manager of the €58bn scheme for the building sector, BpfBouw.

Cordares merged with APG in 2008, after BpfBouw contracted out its asset management and pensions administration to APG.

APG Group is the largest pensions provider in the Netherlands, serving roughly 4.5m people and 25,000 employers. Its 3,000 staff mostly work in Heerlen, in the south-east of the Netherlands. It has also offices in Brussels, New York and Hong Kong.

ASR backs sustainable EM bond launch

Dutch insurance firm ASR is the seed investor for a new exchange-traded fund (ETF) from BlackRock, integrating environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors into emerging market debt.

The iShares JP Morgan ESG Emerging Markets Bond UCITS ETF will track the JP Morgan ESG EMBI Global Diversified index, one of a range of emerging market debt benchmarks launched by the US investment bank in collaboration with BlackRock last April.

It has a total expense ratio of 0.45% and joins 27 other sustainable ETFs offered by iShares, BlackRock’s ETF arm.

The asset manager said that the integration of ESG insights into traditional investment approaches had been boosted by country-level regulation, greater awareness and better data.

Benoit Sorel, head of products for iShares, said: “The improvement in the quality and coverage of ESG data in emerging markets has enabled investors to identify companies with better ESG performance. With this fund, we are providing investors the ability to integrate sustainability considerations in emerging market bonds portfolios.”

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