Earlier this year Ethical Partners Investment Director Nathan Parkin spoke at the Elevate Modern Slavery Conference, which included industry, government, NGO and academic speakers and delegates. Nathan spoke on the importance of the investor voice in addressing the Modern Slavery Issue and about the research Ethical Partners has conducted into the supply chain and human rights disclosures of the top 220 companies listed on the ASX. This research showed that only 4/10 companies even mentioned supply chain or human rights in their reporting. He also encouraged the companies present to be willing to look for and address the issue of modern slavery better in their business practices and reporting and be honest about what they find and how they plan to fix it.
Nathan then discussed the importance of investors rewarding companies for doing this, which we hope will make companies feel more comfortable to examine their supply chains honestly. Ethical Partners also feels strongly that companies looking at, and fixing their supply chains, will help to reduce their reputational and business risks, thus benefitting both those affected by modern slavery and shareholders. We look forward to being involved in many more of these collaborative and advocacy events in the future.
Emma McCarthy recently joined Ethical Partners. Emma is a passionate final year law student and joins us as Sustainability and Advocacy Assistant. We are honoured to share with you her reflections on the recent UN Global Compact conference, and how it inspired her, as a new recruit to the global sustainability and human rights community, on her journey to fight for change.
During August 2020 the Fund returned 4.10% versus the S&P/ASX 300 Accumulation Index of 3.05%, outperforming by 1.05% (after fees). Overweight positions in Consumer Staples and Industrials added to performance while stocks in General Insurance and Building Products detracted from performance.
It appears that the Australian economy will be asked to grow itself out of debt post COVID rather than experience an increase in taxes once the economy is more stable. So what are the long term projects that would change Australia for the better? It was quite timely indeed then that the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) recently released its 2020 Integrated System Plan (ISP). It appears to us that AEMO has put down the framework for how Australia will operate with less coal fired electricity generation given we have an aging fleet which will be gradually de-commissioned over the next 20 years.The AEMO Plan is a whole of system blueprint for the evolution and change the electricity market will experience in the 20 years to 2040. It expects 63% of the current coal fired power stations to close by then based on company disclosures and end of life assumptions. Herein lies Australia's great stimulus opportunity.
The last quarter has been the best of times for unprofitable but growing companies and the worst of times for value managers and others trying to buy equities with any margin of safety. Speculative activity in markets has been driven by excess central bank liquidity and real yields moving to -100bps, pushing risk assets higher, the valuations of technology companies up to levels not seen before and gold to all-time highs at around $2,000 USD per ounce.