APG, Norges Bank Investment Management and the Church Commissioners for England are among 120 investors leading a major new effort to improve the human rights performance of listed companies.

An initiative modelled on Climate Action 100+, the influential stewardship programme through which shareholders collaborate to encourage firms to decarbonise, will be coordinated by the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

Known as Advance, it will focus on 40 companies within renewable energy and metals and mining during its first five years.

Those companies will be asked to strengthen their performance in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights – a set of 31 principles aimed at preventing, addressing and remedying human rights abuses in the private sector.

Sector strategies will be developed to identify priority topics for different types of business.

Paul Chandler, stewardship director at the PRI, said that companies’ lobbying activities would be a “central” focus of the engagement work.

“We really want to recognise how influential corporate lobbying can be on policymaking around human rights,” he said, referring to direct lobbying, lobbying through trade bodies, and political donations. 

More than 200 investors have “endorsed” Advance, but only 120 are actively engaging through the initiative. Institutions backing the initiative without engaging include those without in-house stewardship teams.

Investors involved in the engagement have one year to develop internal human rights policies and due diligence processes as part of the terms of the initiative.

Paul Chandler at PRI

Paul Chandler, PRI

While CA100+ has come under fire for its secrecy around which investors are responsible for stewarding which companies, Advance has published a full list of investors and their focus firms.

Schroders and Morgan Stanley will lead engagement with Anglo American, while NBIM and Old Mutual will take responsibility for fellow miner Goldfields. Energy giants Orsted and RWE will be stewarded by Boston Common Asset Management and Storebrand, and APG and the Church Commissioners for England, respectively. EOS at Federated Hermes and JP Morgan will team up to engage with steelmaker POSCO.

Chandler told IPE that the decision to make the list of lead investors public was “a natural next step for an engagement initiative like this, and will hopefully give the market and other stakeholders more confidence in the work”.

The PRI is also planning to create a nature-focused collaborative engagement platform next year.

“We recognise the scale of the challenge on nature and biodiversity is large so our hope is to complement other initiatives on nature,” said Chandler. “Planning internally is now underway and we expect to start recruiting an investor advisory committee early in the new year.”

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