Lockdown: sustainable opportunity?

Laura Chappell, Chief Executive Officer, Brunel_670x504
Laura Chappell
Chief Executive Officer
8th September 2020

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I’ve been thinking about what long-term, sustainable commitment means through the current crisis, and thought it was about time to put pen to paper.

There are all kinds of questions that have been thrown into relief by lockdown, questions about what long-term resilience now means, about disruption, and about what business and investing is actually for.

As a result, we’ve done a lot more looking at ourselves and how operate. So, how can build ourselves as a long-term business, even through COVID-19? Part of the answer is to go inside-out.

PEOPLE: Start on the inside

We’ve put a lot of time into supporting our staff through regular consultations, radical flexibility over working hours and locations, progressive policies on lifestyle issues, and a strong focus on wellbeing and mental health. And that’s helped to give us some internal resilience.

We’ve wanted to make sure that, when we face extreme events, our employees are equipped with that knowhow they need – emotional intelligence – to lead effectively. I think it’s fair to say COVID is testing all of our resilience. What was an interesting short-term challenge is emerging as the norm, and even the most resilient of people are being tested right now.

So we like our employees to be flexible, strong and knowledgeable about the business. They don’t have to know it all – and we’re too small to have subject experts covering everything we do. We need to be able to equip them to make swift decisions that fit with our long-term values and objectives – that means giving them new challenges is a good thing, but we need to be mindful of change overload. I am convinced that we will not feel the true COVID impact for some time yet, and so we need to ensure we give people adequate time and space to adapt.

PARTNERSHIPS: Looking out

We already work hand-in-hand with our ten clients and are constantly engaging and consulting to find the best outcomes for us all. We are still learning how to do this better, but the learning process equips us to take a sustainable approach to other stakeholders, too.

We aim to work with them all, whether they are managers, clients, suppliers, government, media, regulators or trade bodies. We will not be afraid of making a risk decision that puts culture and strategy above economic efficiency, for the sake of long-term partnership – if it is in keeping with our values and objectives and makes long term economic sense for our business and clients. This approach enables us to weather the storms that will inevitably come.

We are now re-assessing all our partnerships with this principle in mind: favouring strategic alliances over transactional engagements. In this way, we are learning to work closely with partners so that both sides develop and improve over time – and learning to examine our practices in the process.

PRUDENCE: Invest for the journey

Looking ahead through the 2020s, we will contribute to the big picture. We will encourage our partners not to just focus on the next profitable endeavour, especially if the cost is to people or the environment. That has to affect our activities and investment decisions, too. The asset management industry is already under pressure to think more broadly – not just about their success in a competitive economy but about whether they’re helping with the “E” and “S” of ESG in their sphere of influence. This pressure has been steadily increasing though COVID and will not let up.

It’s good for the world. And, in the long run, it’s good for the bottom line, too. We can see that through COVID-19, as companies with good and strong ties to their stakeholders and local communities find it easier to stay afloat.

So when it comes to responsible investing, we don’t want to let up on the pressure because of what’s going on – now, more than ever, our responsible investing approach makes sense in encouraging companies and investors to take bold steps to help sustain a world worth living in.


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