In addition to managing communications and relationships with investors directly, companies may also need to handle sustainability and corporate governance issues that arise at AGMs or in the media or through communications with other stakeholders.
The growing influence of sustainable investors has encouraged a number of campaigning organisations to seek to use investor influence to achieve their environmental or social goals. They do this by publishing research and rankings, by working with the media and by putting pressure on asset managers to raise issues with the companies that they invest in.
Sometimes such activities result in issues being presented formally (by shareholder resolution) or informally at company AGMs.
Elsewhere, some company managers use investor interest in sustainability to focus the minds of their colleagues on these issues and to drive change within their own business.
Steps to take
We do not pretend to expertise or even experience outside the direct realm of company - investor communications on sustainability. So, we are reluctant to advise on specific steps to take.
However, we highlight a few considerations below.
Factors to consider
When handling communications with stakeholder groups acting on behalf of (or claiming to act on behalf of) investors, companies should keep a clear sight on the specific interests of investors in the process and the aspects of the activity that are being undertaken with other stakeholder groups in mind.
Where the stakeholder group concerned lies outside the domain of investor relations, we would recommend involving the relevant communications specialists. The same issue is likely to need different handling dependent on whether it is being played out:
- In private with investors
- In public with an NGO involved
- In public with investors and NGOs and the media involved
As ever, the closer a company understands the sustainability interests of their largest investors, the better able they are to differentiate between the issues that they are really concerned about and the issues that may be ascribed to them by others.