The $19bn garment industry in Bangladesh is unfortunately well known for the appalling conditions for its workers. The Rana Plaza Factory which collapsed in 2013, taking with it the lives of more than 1,100 garment workers was unfortunately only one of many disasters that have occurred. Factories are often dangerous, overcrowded, poorly ventilated and unsanitary, and the conditions for workers are often exploitative and abusive. In order to begin to address these issues, The Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord was designed in 2013. This accord was a comprehensive independent agreement to make garment factories in Bangladesh safer, made by over 200 brands and retailers, two global trade unions and eight Bangladeshi garment unions. The accord, which is enforced by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), includes mandatory, independent inspections of buildings, mandatory repairs and renovations with financial support from the brands and increased access to workers’ unions for all factory staff. Factories’ safety committees receive training, complaints systems have been set up and safety inspections have been conducted in more than 1600 factories since 2013. In 2018 this agreement expired and was replaced by a new 2018 Accord on Fire and Building safety in Bangladesh. Australian NGO’s and lobby groups such as Oxfam have been instrumental in campaigning Australia’s largest garment manufacturers to sign up to this accord, with many brands such as Kmart, Target, Big W, Cotton On, Forever New, Specialty Fashion and Just Group having signed. Unfortunately, there are still several large Australian brands that are still to sign the accord, and Ethical Partners looks forward to being part of the conversation with these brands, where able, and supporting our NGO panel in their calls for these companies to sign.
During December 2020 the Fund returned 2.11% versus the S&P/ASX 300 Accumulation Index of 1.32%, outperforming the market by 0.79% (after fees). Overweight positions in Renewable Energy and Transition Commodities and an underweight position in Healthcare contributed to relative performance while an overweight position in Food Products and an underweight position in Information Technology detracted from relative performance.
Ethical Partners has made a submission to to the inquiry on the Climate Change Bill. In our view it is clear that we desperately need whole of government support around the important elements of this bill.
Biodiversity is a very important area of engagement for us at EPFM, and an area of increasing interest for investors. Experts believe that we are in the midst of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event -some 75 per cent of terrestrial and 66 per cent of marine environments have already been severely altered by human activity and one million species face extinction – many within decades.
During October 2020 the Fund returned 2.85% versus the S&P/ASX 300 Accumulation Index of 1.89%, outperforming the market by 0.96% (after fees). Overweight positions in Insurance stocks and an underweight position in Metals & Mining contributed to relative performance while overweight positions in Consumer Staples and Media & Entertainment detracted from relative performance.