Denmark’s Danica Pension has said that in its talks with investee companies it is now putting more focus on social topics as well as on the robustness of business models in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

In its 2020 active ownership report, the Danske Bank subsidiary said social issues, such as health and employee safety, accounted for 33% of dialogues between companies and shareholders in 2020, an increase from 23% in 2019.

The pensions firms said a major focus over the past year had also been whether firms had resilient business models.

Ole Krogh, Danica Pension chief executive officer, said: “The crisis has put the companies’ business models to the test.”

He said it was also important to examine behavioural changes in the wake of the crisis, such as changes in demand – increased focus on e-commerce, for example – that could affect the growth of many businesses.

The pension provider said that during the pandemic, how companies handled social responsibility had had a greater impact than before on the public perception of them. How consumers viewed a company could have a significant effect on its business opportunities even after the crisis, it added.

The DKK450bn (€60.5bn) pensions firm said that against this background, it was particularly important to examine how companies had handled employees’ health and safety, protecting both them and the business, and helping to stop the spread of infection.

“The crisis has really stressed society’s expectations that companies must not only make money, but that they also have a broader social responsibility and must help mitigate the consequences of the crisis,” Krogh said.

One of Danica Pension’s focus points in its active ownership work had been whether firms had put more importance on profit than staff health, he said, with such an attitude risking criticism for a lack of social responsibility.

“It is not only detrimental to the employees, but also to the company’s reputation and our potential return,” he said.