Shut up and listen.
Even when it’s tough to hear, keep listening and you may just learn something. When it comes to picking socially aligned stocks, this mantra still holds true.
Our most recent example is with Boohoo, the online fashion retailer with the philosophy that “we don’t take life, or fashion, too seriously.” Based on recent events, those words now take on a double meaning.
When it comes to allegations of modern slavery, Boohoo’s customers do take life very seriously, everyone’s life, including the lives of workers at a clothing factory in Leicester that is linked to the company.
Orenda’s real-time social positioning and ESG scores are built on the foundation that when companies do good, they do well. We take it very seriously. We don’t rely on a bunch of metrics from company reports. We aren’t that gullible. If we did, we would have used the same data that companies like MSCI used to give Boohoo an AA ESG rating in June, and completely missed a serious social issue that has led to a full investigation into the public company. Instead, we rely on the voices of many expressing their disgust on online platforms.
The concern surrounding Boohoo’s alleged factory labor abuses began to emerge on social media in late March. It gained steam in April and was roaring by May, and news agencies started to report on the story as well. Who was listening? Well, we were.
An investor concerned about modern slavery would have dropped the stock when Orenda’s social alignment factor for Boohoo began to erode in May, a month before the favorable ESG rating was published. Customers were calling for a boycott, and truly concerned about the welfare of its factory workers.
Although the favorable MSCI rating had a short-term uptick on the price, we knew a significant drop was imminent. Why? Because customers still care and are still concerned, even when the company publicly condemned the activities at the UK factory, it wasn’t enough.
The tendency for the financial world to challenge the value of ESG ratings is misguided. Don’t give up on finding the good in companies and investing in them. Take the time to listen to everyone who has a voice, especially a company’s customers, employees and the communities where they do business.
We believe that ESG 2.0 will bring this conversation to a new level. It will evolve and we will help lead the discussion.