Tuesday 10th December 2019 marks the date when Australia’s most populous city faces a further increase in Water Restrictions (Level 2), the harshest water use rules facing the population in over a decade. Sydney’s dam levels have dropped to 45% and the NSW Water Minister was quoted as saying this week the restrictions were brought forward “because the size and scale of the drop of water into Sydney was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before”. It is in this vein that we wanted to highlight GWA Group (GWA.ASX), being one company the Ethical Partners Investment team feels is well placed to help the consumer grapple with the decreasing supply of and the likely increasing cost of water.
At Ethical Partners, it is our opinion that currently the ethical risks of investing in the listed aged care sector are too significant. Our position is based on the lack of achievement of minimum standards of care across the industry generally and the corresponding impact this has on human rights. We have not owned aged care stocks since the inception of the Ethical Partners Australian Share Fund due to both ethical and valuation-related risks. We would need to see considerable change in the business model, transparency and disclosure, staffing, training, monitoring and codes of conduct in order to consider investment in the future.
Ethical Partners Australian Share Fund - As at 30 September, 2019. Unit price, Investor Class $1.0453, APIR code EPF9951AU. During September 2019 the Ethical Partners Australian Share Fund returned -2.73% versus the S&P/ASX 300 Accumulation Index of 1.91%, out performing the market by 0.82% (after fees). Over the last quarter the Fund benefitted from overweight positions in the Industrials and Consumer Discretionary sectors and an underweight position in Materials and Property also benefited relative performance. Key detractors for the last quarter included stocks in the Financials and Consumer Staples industry groups.
Addendum: - On Wednesday 30th October, subsequent to Ethical Partners publishing this article on our view on Woolworth’s sustainability reporting, we became aware of the serious under-payments issue that Woolworths recently uncovered. Woolworths management team has initiated a full review of the factors that drove this issue as well as a company-wide review to ensure that this issue is not larger than the initial evidence suggests, guiding to a potential cost of $200-$300m allocated mostly to repaying previously under-paid wages. We expect further details at the February 2020 result release.