Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which runs Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, revealed it held far fewer meetings with the companies it invests in last year compared to 2019 – blaming cancelled investment conferences for the fall.

In its 2020 responsible investment report published this morning, the central bank subsidiary said its staff held 2,877 mostly digital meetings with 1,209 firms – down from the 3,412 meetings they convened the year before.

The coronavirus pandemic made it necessary to hold most meetings with companies on digital platforms last year, according to the report.

NBIM, the manager of the NOK11trn (€1.1trn) Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) said: “Our experience was that digital meetings worked well. Restrictions on travel also made companies’ boards and management more available for dialogue.

“Nevertheless, the cancellation of many investor conferences led to fewer meetings in 2020 than in the year before,” the manager wrote in the report.

Even though 2020 had been a hard year for companies, NBIM said it had seen many keeping up their focus on sustainability and even launching new green initiatives.

NBIM said it carried out carried around 4,000 detailed assessments of companies’ governance structure, strategies, risk management and sustainability objectives every year.

Carine Smith Ihenacho, chief corporate governance officer, said: “These show that companies did not put work in this area on hold in 2020. For example, we saw a marked improvement in climate disclosure from the previous year.”

This was promising, she said, adding that it suggested the pandemic had not weakened companies’ sustainability work but may even have strengthened it.

The equities sector giving rise to the most meetings last year for NBIM was financials, with 797 such company meetings taking place, according to data in the report.

Smith Ihenacho said NBIM began dialogues last year with 16 banks on how to manage climate risk in their lending and financing portfolios.

“We see that banks are increasingly working to quantify climate emissions from their financing operations,” she said.

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