During the conference, a smiling young woman took to the stage of the Palais des Congrès, calling for action from the 1,700 international responsible investors gathered in Paris for the PRI event: "Hello My name is Timea. In my country, at the age of 17, I signed a contract in English, a language which I did not speak, to go to work in Canada and send money to my family. "
"When I arrived, I was locked in a motel to become a sex slave. I was barely fed, as the picture behind me shows. I managed to escape, and I was able to obtain refugee status in Canada. I am now fighting against human trafficking, what is known as modern slavery. I am here today because ultimately all these atrocities have a single motor: money. You! You can track down dirty, laundered money within your networks and this is the only way to effectively fight against all this slave trade."
40.3 million modern-day slaves
Nagy was invited to the Palais des Congrès stage by Fiona Reynolds, Managing Director of the PRI, who hopes to mark the consideration of social criteria with a capital S, along with all the investors signed on to the initiative. She is actively involved in the fight against modern slavery and relayed pertinent figures: "40.3 million men, women and children were victims of this form of slavery in 2016. Forced labor generates $150 billion in profits every year to its perpetrators! " The data are well-known but general mobilization is yet to be seen from the likes of the embarrassed investors comfortably seated in front of Timéa at the Palais des Congrès. During the conference, investors questioned their means of action.
"They are important because you have influence" the specialists explained a few hours later in front of the French network for the PRI, at the initiative of Ircantec and Agirc -Arrco pension schemes. Their solid idea is to "put emphasis on the S in Social by putting it at the heart of the investors’ approach and mobilize to promote this approach within the Francophone world, which is today essentially united around culture". Influence is an even more complex approach than the so-called materiality of quantifying risk and opportunity costs related to environmental and social criteria.
Employing the SDGs
Focus has been made on the various means of pressure (shareholder engagement, ESG rating, exclusion, etc...) placed on companies to take preventative measures and repair all supply chains involving subcontractors. These measures are outlined in the laws against modern slavery in Australia and the United Kingdom as well as the due diligence law in France, for which the Forum for Responsible Investment has published a reference document.
Two major forthcoming events are designed to take action. The first is the debate on financing pensions in France. Jean-Pierre Costes, President of Ircantec’s Board of Directors, said on September 12th that "pension reserves must be managed according to a responsible investment approach." The second event concerns the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the United Nations SDG summit on September 25th. Francophone responsible investors have gradually taken ownership of these goals, as the study published by Novethic suggests, but almost everything remains to be done to reach and enforce these goals.
Anne-Catherine Husson-Traore, @AC_HT, CEO of Novethic