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BMO sees more companies embracing ESG issues

2018 was a pivotal year for engaging with companies on environmental, social and governance issues, BMO Global Asset Management reported Monday in its Responsible Investment Annual Review.

BMO Global engaged with 665 companies in 46 countries and recorded 237 instances of change, where companies improved ESG policies and practices following that engagement.

More than half (54%) were linked to the sustainable development goals, or SDGs, while the rest were related to corporate governance. Of the changes related to SDGs, 14% were related to SDG 12, focused on climate-related issues of environmental supply chain management, improving ESG disclosure and the management of pollution impacts, while 13% were linked to SDG 3, which includes encouraging enhanced access to medicines and responsible drug pricing.

It was a particularly pivotal year for the development and implementation of climate strategies, said Alice Evans, co-head of responsible investment at BMO Global Asset Management, in a statement. "We have seen significant improvement following engagement. We have also seen traction in improving working conditions and workers' rights and addressing corruption."

The firm also advanced understanding of how engagement can support SDGs by moving beyond key goals to use the detailed underlying SDG targets to focus company-engagement objectives, she said.