As the scale of the impact of Covid-19 starts to become clear, investors around the world are grappling with how to balance protecting their economic returns with the interests of their employees, customers/suppliers and the broader community.
These are issues that impact investors are already very familiar with considering. For years impact investors have been trying to shift the decision-making of more 'mainstream' investors to have an increased focus on ESG issues. Before the recent outbreak, there was already a trend for UK directors and their advisors starting to take a broader view when assessing what was in the best interests of the company and its shareholders.
The unprecedented issues facing the global economy makes these considerations more relevant than ever. In the coming months, directors will need to make difficult decisions, which may have a negative impact on their various stakeholders.
Despite this, directors and investors may also find that there are long-term benefits for shareholders and clients, if they take decisions that do not maximize profit in the short term, but instead consider the broader community.
During the halcyon days (remember February?) before coronavirus became the all-consuming concern, ESG was the cause célèbre that executives loved to discuss. Signing cheques to plant millions of trees or fund a worldwide charity concert was easy when companies consistently beat their earnings estimates. But how is that playing out at a time when companies are tapping credit facilities, slashing dividends and in some cases simply struggling to survive for the foreseeable future?