Shrewd Owners Lead Change
Contrary to expectations, 2021 was, if anything, an even more eventful year than its predecessor. Global politics have become increasingly antagonistic. The Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal for a week, triggering a crisis in logistics chains. The UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow was hopeful, while simultaneously reminding us of the urgency of change. The waxing and waning of the pandemic has continued to create uncertainty.
It has perhaps been surprising to see just how ambitiously the private sector has tackled problems relating to climate change. Numerous Finnish companies have placed well on the CDP’s list for their environmental efforts. Neste, with its carbon capture and hydrogen innovations, is one example of a Finnish company providing practical solutions to the world’s most urgent problems. BlackRock’s Chairman and CEO Larry Fink also took up the cause by making climate change the theme of his annual letter to the CEOs of the world.
While these are all significant steps, they are still just the first ones. Declarations need to be backed up by action. The rapidly changing world and an increasing understanding in companies of the importance of their stakeholders will come to dictate companies’ scope for action. The significance of various stakeholder groups is constantly shifting and is having an increasing impact of corporate value creation. For example, the Coalition United for a Responsible Exxon (CURE), a group of investors with over 145 institutional members, has accused Exxon's board of responding too slowly to climate issues and is calling for changes in the company’s management.
The green transition may still be in its infancy, but it has gotten off to a promising start. There is much work ahead for everyone, and in that work, dialogue will be key—not just between companies and their stakeholders, but between companies and their peers. Companies should share their experiences, insights and best practices. It is also clear that the market has shown its strength as a driver of change, provided that the regulatory framework is in place and emissions pricing functions correctly.
An active and skilled owner understands and respects their company’s various stakeholders. Continual dialogue is at the core of any successful ownership strategy. As the changes that have already happened prove, companies do not operate in isolation from the rest of society. They can make choices that improve the functioning and welfare of society and the planet as a whole while continuing to create excellent business opportunities.
I am hopeful that 2022 will be a less eventful year than this one—but I wouldn’t bet on it.
We look forward to continuing to build sustainable success stories and engaging in the necessary dialogue with you in the coming year. Thank you to all our clients and business partners for your trust and the work we have done together this year!