GENEVA — It’s not just consumers and activists who are concerned that large firms behave in an ethically responsible way. Investors are also increasingly expecting the companies in which they hold shares to be good corporate citizens, according to a study released Thursday.
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The World Economic Forum said more than 70 percent of chief executive officers surveyed in 14 industries said socially responsible business practices are becoming more important to investors.
“We see increased interest in the social and environmental aspects of corporate performance by pension funds, insurance companies and other shareholders,” said Richard Sames, managing director of the WEF. “Investment analysts, trustees and portfolio managers appear to be taking these issues more seriously than they were just a few years ago.”
The report, “Values and Value:?Communicating the Strategic Importance of Corporate Citizenship to Investors” found that ethical business practices are particularly important to companies with well-known consumer brands, such as Phillips-Van Heusen.
The report quoted PVH chairman and ceo Bruce Klatsky as saying business leaders “need to do a better job at raising awareness of the development benefits of successful, legal, well-governed private investment.”
Also according to the report, Timberland ceo Jeff Swartz said ethical practices were important in attracting staff. He said 64 percent of the firm’s employees have said “values play a strong role in their decision to work at Timberland.”
The report said nongovernmental organizations such as Amnesty International, Global Witness and Oxfam, “are starting to target the financial sector in some of their campaigns, seeing it as a key leverage point to influence corporate behavior on issues. They are bringing in people with financial expertise and undertaking increasingly rigorous and analytical research on the business risks and opportunities associated with a company’s ethical, social and environmental performance.”
The report also cited a study of 400 institutional investors in the U.S., Europe, Japan and China, that found that 59 percent said they believe ceo’s should practice social responsibility rather than operate as though only returns matter.