Leading investors ask listed companies to disclose workforce info

Mar 27, 2019
Investors increasingly seeking data on employee and supply-chain risks and opportunities, says WDI

A coalition of more than 120 investors managing more than $13 tn has asked listed companies to disclose information about how they manage risks and harness opportunities in their workforce and supply chains. 

Co-ordinated by responsible investment group ShareAction, the likes of Amundi, AXA Investment Managers and Legal & General Investment Management have asked listed companies to disclose the information. 

Ninety global companies, including 21 of the world’s 100 largest firms, have responded to investor calls for more consistent and comparable workforce data, sharing the information via the annual Workforce Disclosure Initiative (WDI) survey, launched today. The number of disclosing companies has more than doubled since last year. 

In total, disclosing companies have a footprint in more than one hundred countries where they employ upwards of 8.3 mn people, and have business relationships with more than 1.5 mn suppliers. 

Some well-known names have not engaged with the investor request, however, including Apple and BP, neither of which participated in the WDI, citing confidence in their existing public reporting. 

The WDI quizzes companies on topics including diversity, wages, health and safety, contracts, worker voice and procurement practices. The initiative notes that investors are increasingly seeking this type of comparable data in order to engage with the practices of investee companies. The level of interest in these insights is demonstrated by investor support for the WDI, which has more than doubled since the pilot year in 2017.

The survey reveals that, in general, disclosures lack detail on risk management, with 51 percent of respondents providing no detail on who is involved in the workforce risk-management process, how frequently it is carried out, or what areas of the business are covered – potentially a major concern for investors. 

Amy Metcalfe, head of programs at ShareAction, says: ‘There are challenges to disclosing more workforce data. But the leadership shown by 90 companies across 11 sectors demonstrates that these challenges can – and should – be overcome, not least because the reporting process provides insights that benefit corporate governance but also because calls from shareholders, civil society and worker organizations for better data and action to deliver on the promise of decent jobs are only getting louder.’ 

Matt Christensen, head of responsible investment at AXA Investment Managers, notes: ‘We are confident the current void in social metrics will be bridged by the WDI, which we expect will become a reporting standard. As long-term responsible investors with several social-related funds, the data collected against the WDI is used to provide in-depth and complementary information to our social performance and impact assessment.

‘It constitutes, as well, a solid basis for our engagement with companies around social considerations and helps us make processes evolve in the right direction – at both operational and supply-chain levels.’ 

James Gomme, director of sustainable development goals (SDG) at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, concludes: ‘The WDI is already providing real insights into how to enhance workforce reporting and incentivize best practice. This area of focus is extremely necessary in the context of advancing some of the issues that sit at the heart of the SDG agenda.

‘The WDI has also set out to undertake this work in a highly inclusive and impactful manner that equips the investment and business communities with practical tools that can help to drive real change.’ 

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