As Responsible and concerned investors, we are happy to stand behind this Global Investor Statement in support of an effective, fair and equitable response to COVID-19. The race to vaccinate the world’s population is rapidly becoming, in the words of UN Secretary Antonio Guterres, both “the biggest moral test before the global community” and a wildly uneven and unfair distribution”. Whilst rich countries and advanced economies squabble over supplies and surge ahead in COVID vaccinations – with only 10 countries having administered 75% of all COVID vaccinations to this point – 130 countries have not yet received a dose of vaccine. Experts are concerned that at this rate, mass vaccinations in the lowest income countries may not be realised till 2023 or 2024, wreaking havoc on already fragile health and economic systems and increasing poverty and social inequality, which for Ethical Partners, as Responsible Investors focussed on advocating for the attainment of the SDG’s 2 and 3 regarding health and poverty, is clearly a very concerning situation.
Additionally, of concern to us as investors is the increasing understanding that this inequality of vaccine access will also be detrimental to global economic recovery efforts, with new modelling by the ICC showing that advanced economies stand to lose up to $9.2 trillion dollars through vaccine nationalism. The ICC study clearly shows “the economic costs of suboptimal vaccine distribution to the international trading system at the global scale, showing that even if a particular country has access to the vaccine, it “experiences a sluggish recovery with a drag on its GDP” if its trading partners do not have such access. Specifically it found that key advanced economies most impacted include many European countries (including Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands) Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the US, who might lose up to 3.9 percent of their GDPs relative to a world where all countries are vaccinated. Better health generally has been key to global growth over the past century, with economic historians estimating that improved health accounted for about one-third of the overall GDP-per-capita growth of developed economies in the past century. Furthermore, the continued circulation of COVID in unprotected populations further compromises the recovery of the world as a whole, increasing the risk of mutations and more dangerous variants –and further global economic and social impacts.
We believe that this is why it is vital both morally and economically, that people in all countries receive protection from COVID-19, and that this widening gap is a topic of conversations for corporates, investors, governments and international organisations alike. We additionally agree that there is a clear and strong economic case for investing the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, and echo the words of The WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros that the world faces both a catastrophic moral failure in equal access to the tools to combat the pandemic “but also a “potentially catastrophic economic failure”. As signatures to this important collaboration of investors, we therefore look forward to engaging with our portfolio companies wherever possible on addressing the equitable distribution of vaccinations globally, as well as participating in wider advocacy regarding the urgent and crucial need to act quickly to avoid this widening and deeply unequal gap in access to health – a prerequisite for both basic human rights, and to a functioning and thriving global economy”.
The Media Release from the Access to Medicine Foundation, whom we are signatory to, and the full text of the Investor Statement calling for a Fair and equitable global response to COVID -19, which we are also signatory to, can be found on this link.
Globally, 15% of the population are persons with disabilities. The labor force participation rate globally for people with disabilities sits at 32.8% compared to 77.1% for those without disabilities. We believe it is imperative that investors use their shareholder voice to raise the awareness of this important diversity issue and help companies to improve their inclusion.
During February 2021 the Fund returned -0.08% versus the S&P/ASX 300 Accumulation Index of 1.48%, underperforming the market by -1.55%. An overweight position in Consumer Staples and an underweight position in Healthcare contributed to relative performance while an overweight position in Utilities and an underweight position in Materials detracted from relative performance.
The Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 requires certain entities based, or operating in Australia, to report annually on the risks of Modern Slavery in their operations and supply chains, and actions to address those risks. Other entities, based or operating in Australia may report voluntarily. Whilst Ethical Partners does not meet the threshold for mandatory reporting, we have chosen to report voluntarily, as we believe that investors, asset managers and the financial sector have a crucial role to play in addressing Modern Slavery.
Ethical Partners has recently joined a range of stakeholders in creating 2021 Action Pledges that will contribute towards ending child labour by 2025. Backed by a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly, 2021 was declared as the International year for the Elimination of Child Labour.