Stewart Investors are long-term investors striving to make investment decisions with a minimum five-year time horizon. They seek to invest only in good quality companies. Quality is measured through the lenses of quality of management, financials and the franchise. By analysing the sustainability performance and positioning of companies they can better measure less-tangible elements of quality and identify hidden risks.
Stewart Investor’s Sustainable Funds Group invests in the shares of high quality companies that are well positioned to benefit from and contribute to the sustainable development of the countries in which they operate. Rather than allocating our clients’ capital to sectors, countries or benchmarks, our investment process is entirely focused on the quality of individual companies, which includes an assessment of the quality of a company’s management, financials and franchise.
We believe that sustainability is a driver of investment returns and that incorporating these considerations fully into the investment process is the best way to protect and grow capital for clients over the long-term. We seek to find business models that will benefit from a shift in both developed and developing countries from a resource-intensive, consumption-driven, debt-dependent model of development towards a more sustainable one.
Our investment philosophy is founded on the principle of stewardship – careful, considered and responsible management of our clients' funds. The purchase of a share comes with both rights and responsibilities. Should one of our companies fail to meet international best practice on the environment, human rights or social issues, we believe we have a responsibility, as part owners of the business, to engage with senior management to persuade them to address the issue.
We also have an absolute return mind-set. That is, we define risk as losing money for our clients, rather than in terms of deviation from any benchmark index. We focus as much on the potential downside of our investment decisions as on the anticipated upside. For companies facing sustainable development headwinds, or specific ESG challenges, earnings and cash flows can disappear very quickly.
This means that an output of our bottom-up investment process is that we do not invest in companies with material exposure to harmful products including weapons, tobacco, alcohol, gambling and fossil fuels. Nor, with our focus on absolute returns and a potential universe of tens of thousands of companies, do we believe we need to invest in such companies to deliver the long-term, sustainable returns our clients expect.
All Stewart Investor’s investment team members sign our Hippocratic Oath
, which includes the commitment that we will not pursue risk adjusted returns to the extent that our actions will knowingly harm others. We have seen many companies that we would not invest in on this basis that would pass traditional negative screens and even some that would be considered “positive”, such as renewable energy companies that operate in harmful or unethical ways. For this reason every analyst and the investment team as whole is responsible for avoiding any allocation of client capital to harmful companies, in accordance with our investment philosophy and strategy.
Bi-annually our external ESG Research provider ISS-Ethix reviews our portfolios and provides reporting which gives us additional assurance that our companies are not involved in harmful industries or breaching social norms like those found in the UN Global Compact. We also receive regular updates from controversy monitoring service Reprisk. Where issues are raised by these services, we will always engage with the company in question, and if need be we will divest to ensure the portfolio continues to meet the principles which sit at the heart of our investment philosophy.