Castlefield is a signatory to the Workforce Disclosure Initiative (WDI). The project, run by ShareAction, aims to make the process of disclosing workforce data simple and efficient. It allows companies to demonstrate to investors, clients and other stakeholders, how they manage their staff and supply chain workers compared to peer organisations. It also gives companies the opportunity to explain how their approach to workforce management is aligned to the overall business strategy, and to signal their understanding of major workforce-related risks and opportunities. The initiative is aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 8 which calls for ‘decent work for all’. Now in its fourth year, the WDI offers an excellent opportunity to generate meaningful and comparable data on workforce issues that will improve our understanding of investee companies. Investors now usually have access to the data needed to take account of companies’ environmental performance; the WDI is a welcome effort to secure similar data for how companies manage their workforce.
In June 2019, 750 companies were invited to participate, a significant increase compared with 500 the prior year and just 75 during its pilot year in 2017. As investor signatories, we contacted all of our investee companies on the list to encourage them to participate. As a result, we had some promising engagements where we were able to set out our case for disclosure. There were also some exciting developments within the project, with the launch of an online portal, allowing investors to collaborate on engagements and share information between the survey being sent out and its November deadline for responses.
As long-standing allies, Castlefield, along with EdenTree Investment Management, was asked by the WDI to participate in its recent webinar, “Investor Pick: Hot ESG Topics for 2020”. The webinar outlined how Castlefield integrate WDI’s workforce and supply chain data into our investment process and engagement with companies. The WDI dataset is incredibly useful to the work we do here at Castlefield. It provides us with greater insight into the social operations of our investee companies and allows us to have meaningful engagement on such findings. Comparing a company’s disclosure against peers through public scorecards encourages a “race to the top”, spurring companies to want to be seen as doing better than its competitors. Being presented with the questions in the survey also allows companies to reflect on issues they might not have previously considered. All businesses, no matter their size or technological capability, rely on their people and their supply chain, and, as investors, we do not view social considerations and financial returns as mutually exclusive.
An unprecedented number of companies (both disclosing and non-disclosing) joined the webinar, and we hope that by sharing our experience we can encourage more companies to participate in the WDI survey, providing investors with more invaluable data. We were pleased to have been asked to participate, which we feel is a true testament to the commitment Castlefield delivers to its collaborative engagement streams. A replay of the webinar can be found here.
Information is accurate as at 09.03.2020. This material may not be distributed, published or reproduced in whole or in part.