Objective: Encourage disclosure of scope 1 and scope 2 emissions.
Update: We have engaged extensively on ESG issues in recent years with Intuitive Surgical, the manufacturer of minimally invasive robotic surgery systems. In March 2021, we initiated an engagement for change with the company aimed at encouraging improved carbon disclosure. Since then, the business has made incremental steps towards aligning its external reporting with recognised disclosure standards, working to ensure that the relevant information was appropriately scoped, and that the disclosure methodology developed could be sustainably reported alongside other standards, such as those published by TCFD and SASB. Having participated in Intuitive’s ESG materiality survey in December 2022, we were able to successfully close our engagement for change in February 2023 when the company published its inaugural sustainability report, which included validated scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions and an inventory for scope 3 (in the process of validation).
Next Steps/Conclusions: Closed.
Procter & Gamble
Objective: Encourage P&G to accelerate its investments in alternative substances to palm oil.
Update: We initiated an engagement for change with P&G, the world’s largest consumer goods company. The purpose of the engagement is to encourage P&G to accelerate its investments in alternative substances to palm oil. In December, we met with senior P&G representatives at the company’s headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio to begin discussions on these issues. Palm oil is used in myriad everyday products, including detergents, hair care, and cleaning products. However, production of palm oil is linked to significant deforestation and biodiversity loss. As a significant user, P&G recognises that palm oil is a major issue but has found no scale alternative. Palm oil itself is already a natural substitute for a petroleum-based product. Rather than finding alternatives, P&G is focused on managing the supply chain where possible. All the palm oil the company uses is certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and traceability is improving, although less so for palm kernel oil. P&G also enforces rigorous labour standards, carrying out field audits and using third parties to keep up to date with conditions in the supply chain. To supply P&G, palm oil plantations must adhere to these standards and the company will remove suppliers which are unwilling or unable to comply.
Next Steps/Conclusions: Having initiated the process and listened to P&G’s views, we have established the next steps for this engagement. On palm oil, we will request more information from P&G on the traceability of its supply chain with a view to understanding what proportion of palm oil purchased is accounted for by tierone suppliers and the palm oil mills. This should help us establish any gaps in P&G’s supply chain management and monitoring framework and assess what, if any, further steps should be taken.
Objective: Disclosure of climate data in line with CDP.
Stage: Plan Issued.
Update: As a participant in the CDP non-disclosure campaign, we wrote to VAT Group, the Swiss supplier of high-end vacuum sealing technologies, requesting better disclosure of carbon emissions and, more broadly, improved climate change governance and strategy. VAT Group has, by its own admission, been something of a laggard regarding sustainability disclosure and communication. This is starting to change, however, and while the company is still not yet where we would like it to be, some of the progress since we commenced our engagement has been very encouraging. The publication of an inaugural Sustainability Review in August 2022, for example, was a significant step in the right direction. In December 2022, as further evidence of its desire to improve the standard of its sustainability disclosure, VAT Group commissioned an external party to conduct an ESG materiality analysis consultation with a range of stakeholders, including a small number of major shareholders. During the discussion on climate disclosures, we reiterated that the business should provide more information, including a CDP submission and TCFD-aligned disclosures.
In meeting in April 2023, the CEO confirmed that the materiality consultation has highlighted to the business which areas to focus on, whilst a recent CO2 accounting exercise has also provided good insight into scope one and two emissions (work on scope three emissions will take “a little longer” according to management). Targets with respect to emissions are expected to be released alongside the company’s second sustainability report, which will be issued later this year. The intention is to have these independently verified by the SBTi (Science Based Targets initiative), although there is currently more than a twelve months lead-time on such verification. Management also plans to make a CDP submission when the window for doing so opens later this year.
Next Steps/Conclusions: Engaging when appropriate we will continue to monitor VAT Group’s strategy, capability and commitment to reducing the carbon intensity of its business to a level consistent with a Paris-aligned global economy.
Engagement for Information
The most common form of engagement, an engagement for information is a meeting or correspondence involving a two-way exchange of information. This dialogue makes a vital contribution to our overall understanding of a company, its management and its approach to sustainability issues.