Engagement theme: Biodiversity collapse
At AXA IM, we are committed to biodiversity protection. Throughout 2021, this commitment has been continually reaffirmed through a series of actions: Reinforcement of our biodiversity strategy and enhancement of our Deforestation and Ecosystems Protection Policy;1 further integration of biodiversity issues based on continuous engagement activities; and the consideration of new biodiversity dedicated data developed by our partner Iceberg Data Lab.
Natural capital – our oceans, forests, climate and more – is at the origin of all the benefits people and economies obtain from ecosystems. Simply put, it makes human life possible.2 The health of human populations is part of these benefits as well as the global prosperity of world economies. By disturbing both the structure and functions of ecosystems, we not only increase risks of new infectious diseases appearing, but we may also be losing access to discoveries from nature that may contribute to our collective health3 . We have seen evidence of links between biodiversity and COVID-19 and hope to learn from this experience4 .
Our engagement goals and activity
In 2021, our engagement initiatives were underpinned by a new, tighter policy on ecosystem protection and deforestation, developing a campaign first started in 2020. In the fourth quarter of 2021, a specific engagement programme was launched with a selection of companies with activities around the raw materials associated with deforestation (soy, palm oil, cattle and timber), identified under the criteria of the new Deforestation and Ecosystems Protection Policy published in June 2021.
A special approach and an engagement questionnaire have been developed to facilitate dialogue with the identified companies and are informed by our knowledge sharing with CDP and WWF. The objective of this engagement is to accompany companies identified as exposed to deforestation risks in setting up a clear deforestation-free goal supported by concrete actions. Our ambition is to control the potential risks of deforestation and ecosystems conversion associated with their activities and to support a ‘forest- and nature-positive’ transformation of these companies.
Based on first results, meetings with the target companies will be organised during 2022 to deepen discussions on key deforestation and biodiversity issues. Our ambition is to control the potential risks of deforestation and ecosystems conversion associated with their activities and to support forest- and nature-positive transformation of these companies throughout 2022- 2023.
Also, in 2021, the focus of engagement has been enlarged beyond deforestation with initial discussions conducted with companies exposed to biodiversity protection challenges in different industries. Our goal is to amplify this area of shareholder engagement in 2022.
In 2021, we signed the Finance for Biodiversity (FfB) Pledge, along with other financial institutions. One of its objectives is to engage with companies to reduce their negative (and increase their positive) impacts on biodiversity.
Outcomes and next steps
We believe we saw a positive response to these engagements globally. Companies were open to discussion and willing to progress on identifying and managing relevant biodiversity risks and opportunities, despite the complexity of the biodiversity challenge.