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Stewardship in a pandemic

The pandemic has starkly illustrated the links between different sustainability issues. We have explored these links, and the challenges for companies, employees, investors, and wider society in a series of articles highlighting our stewardship work.

At the start of 2020, few of us could have envisaged the dramatic changes to our daily lives wreaked by the Covid-19 pandemic. As governments scrambled to impose national lockdowns to protect public health, it soon became clear that the coronavirus would have far-reaching impacts on individuals and families, businesses and employees, the global economy, and society as a whole.

We see two key lessons for investor stewardship, and for tackling future sustainability challenges and crises.

Covid-19 has demonstrated the critical interdependence of different elements of society. We believe this interdependence will only grow over time given the bigger challenges ahead, such as responding to the inevitable impacts of climate change, safeguarding biodiversity, and addressing inequality.

The pandemic also emphasised the links between sustainability issues and the risks associated with exceeding safe planetary boundaries. The implications of the global pandemic were unexpected. But it was a known risk, albeit one that very few businesses had paid enough attention to or planned for.

Governments and the private sector must draw on the lessons from the pandemic and apply them to the climate crisis – an emergency that requires far greater planning, resolve and transformation.

Bruce Duguid,

Head of Stewardship, EOS

Knowledge hub

Our knowledge hub brings together the latest EOS Insights from our experts and thought leadership on the pandemic.

The coronavirus and our relationship with nature
In this series, we will explore the links between infectious diseases, environmental issues and social sustainability, alongside the role of investors and companies. In part one, Sonya Likhtman looks at how the destruction of ecosystems can increase the risk of pandemics.
Climate change and infectious diseases
Fighting infection – animal welfare and antimicrobial resistance
Antimicrobial resistance and the challenge for pharmaceutical companies
The coronavirus and the race for a vaccine
Can coronavirus vaccines be distributed equitably?

Adapting our engagement approach

The Covid-19 pandemic became the significant backdrop to much of our engagement in 2020. Despite lockdowns and the inability to meet face-to-face, we were able to adapt quickly to virtual engagement using web-based interfaces. This meant we could continue to deliver our engagement plan and related voting, plus our public policy and market best practice work.

In 2021 we are focusing on delivery of the appropriate post-pandemic response. We are encouraging companies to put business purpose at the heart of delivering positive societal outcomes and guiding decision-making around the trade-offs between stakeholders.

We are prioritising engagement on the protection of human and labour rights abuses, given the increased risks of further deterioration in already precarious working conditions, arising from the pandemic. We will also focus on modern slavery and limited access to fundamental needs such as food and medicine, including effective coronavirus vaccines.

To find out more, read the article in our Annual Review