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3 Mär 2019

Karin Askelöf, Head of Responsible Investments, Handelsbanken, Sweden

Handelsbanken's response to the Fair Action report “Broke in Bangladesh”

Our comment

As an investor we have an indisputable responsibility, and a great opportunity, to engage with companies in order to advance their sustainability performance, of which the respect for human rights is one principal area. The report highlights living wages which is about fundamental human rights. We agree with Fair Action that ensuring living wages is about creating a future where people can provide for the basic needs of their families and also contribute to creating sustainable societies. Living wages is also about lifting thousands of women and their children out of poverty.

It is positive that the report initially gives clear recommendations for investors' continued work. We take note of the report's recommendations and will consider them as we develop our methods going forward and in particular regarding how we can work with living wages in the best way possible.

Our holdings and engagements
Actively managed funds
Handelsbanken's actively managed funds currently have no shares in the companies that Fair Action has reviewed.

We have an integrated approach to sustainability within Handelsbanken as a whole, and also within asset management.  Sustainability risks and opportunities are defined as an integral part of our investment analysis and investment decisions. The inclusion of sustainable companies into our investment portfolios and active engagements with these companies, are pillars of our investment process.  Continuously we work dedicated to improving our methods which has also been the case during 2018. Going forward, if we invest in companies in which we assess wages risking not to allow a reasonable standard of living, we will engage to influence these companies in the right direction.
Within investment management we engage with companies in various ways; directly with the companies, together with other investors and through initiatives. We are dedicated to continue to strategically develop our active engagement activities. Part of this development will be a focus on human rights in supply chains during 2019-2020 as we see several risk areas in complex global supply chains.

Index funds
Handelsbanken’s passively managed funds, so called index funds, have holdings in the four companies as a result of that index funds must contain/reflect the exposure of it’s benchmark index.

For the index funds we engage with companies we are invested in, through so called pooled engagements which are engagements together with other investors. In this work our focus is on engagement with companies that are assessed to violate international norms and conventions. Up till now these four companies, and their linkages to the living wage issue as purchasers from suppliers, have not yet been assessed as norm violators.

Furthermore, pooled engagement also have a focus on companies that are active in sectors or markets with high sustainability risks. In recent years focus has been predominantly on climate related issues. The clothing industry is definitely a sector that exhibits high sustainability risks and where we historically have not had any engagements. We will consider how we can approach living wages going forward.

Karin Askelöf
Head of Responsible Investments
Blasieholmstorg 12
106 70 STOCKHOLM, Sweden