Ethos celebrates today its 20th anniversary. On this occasion, an event took place on the topic "As investors we are building the world of tomorrow". This topic was already the central theme of the first annual report of Ethos in 1997. Several personalities spoke in the course of the day, in particular, Federal Council member Simonetta Sommaruga, Novartis Chairman Joerg Reinhardt, Council of State Karin Keller-Sutter and Mr. Luc Recordon, former Council of State. In parallel, for its 20th anniversary, Ethos publishes its 8 principles for socially responsible investment.
As investors, we build the world of tomorrow
The day was opened by Dominique Biedermann, president of the Ethos Foundation and one of its co-founders. He reminded the audience of the challenges of putting up a structure solely dedicated to socially responsible investment. 20 years after, this central theme remains the same: "Financing socially responsible investment by using pension money not only allows for a high-quality return, but also to move companies in the direction of better corporate governance and more environmental and social responsibility. In this spirit, we help effectively to build the world of tomorrow."
Transparency is the key condition
Federal Council member Simonetta Sommaruga afterwards presented the point of view of the Federal Council on the framework conditions for a sustainable investment in socially responsible companies. According to her, the key condition for this is transparency in their international activities. "Whoever wants to know what a company is worth, must also know what human rights and environment are worth to the company."
The limits of self-regulation?
A roundtable discussed the good functioning of self-regulation in the framework of the environmental and social responsibility of companies. Ms. Karin Keller-Sutter, Council of State and Mr. Luc Recordon, former Coucil of State and National Council gave their points of view. The audience afterwards was asked about this topic by electronic vote. "Does self-regulation work in Switzerland in the areas of good corporate governance and environmental and social responsibility?" 53% of the public said rather not.
For the chairman of Novartis, the stakeholder dialogue is indispensable
Mr. Joerg Reinhardt, chairman of the board of Novartis, afterwards underlined the importance of a regular dialogue with institutional investors. He specified that investors demand more and more responsibility from companies. On their side, companies wish to have more transparency from investors and a long-term investment horizon which supports the development of strategies for long-term value creation. Mr. Reinhardt highlighted the role of Ethos: "In the past 20 years, Ethos has played an important role in improving corporate governance of Swiss companies".
Future generations have the word
At the end of the day, the word was given to the future generations, represented by Ms. Johanna Michel, Deputy director at Bruno Manser Fonds. Ms. Michel underlined the importance for future generations of integrating notions of responsibility into the management of pensions by notably avoiding investment in companies that do not respect human rights, are guilty of corruption or destroy the natural environment.
Publication of the 8 Ethos principles for socially responsible investing
This anniversary is also the occasion for Ethos to concretize its 20 years of experience in socially responsible investing by publishing eight principles for SRI based on the foundation charter which is based on the concept on sustainable investment. These principles constitute and coherent process which must be adhered to by socially responsible investors. For Ethos, acting as a socially responsible investor means not just picking stocks according to environmental, social and governance criteria but also to exercise one’s shareholder rights, such as the voting right and shareholder engagement. When this does not bear fruit, the 8th principle of Ethos foresees different measures which allows for different measures to intensify and extend its methods of action such as for example deposing a shareholder resolution at the general meeting.