Name: Sycomore Asset Management
Signatory type: Investment manager
HQ location: Paris
Assets under management: €7bn
COVERED IN THIS CASE STUDY
Asset class(es): Equity, Fixed Income
We invest to develop a more sustainable and inclusive economy and to generate positive impacts for all of our stakeholders. Our mission: make investment more human.
Our ambition to give meaning to our clients’ investments by creating sustainable and shared value is central to our mission. This is also reflected in our B-corp certification and Entreprise à mission status (obtained in 2020). Through our investments, we want to demonstrate that purpose and performance can be combined.
Why we focus on SDG outcomes
As a responsible investment manager, it is our duty to channel investments towards a more sustainable economy and to support companies seeking to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We believe that companies that meet the world’s fundamental societal and/or environmental needs, and that build strong and fair relationships with their stakeholders, will last and perform well in the long run.
How we focus on SDG outcomes
As part of our process for measuring the sustainability performance of our funds, we look at how companies’ products and services address societal challenges. We do this by calculating their Societal Contribution – the focus of this case study.
For funds with specific environment or social goals, we use the Societal Contribution metric (alongside an environmental metric – the Net Environmental Contribution) to select suitable investments.
The Societal Contribution
We measure the Societal Contribution of a company by assessing the products and services it offers and the jobs generated by its activities, across four pillars:
- Access and Inclusion
- Health and Safety
- Economic and Human Progress
The Societal Contribution is a quantitative metric – it ranges from -100% to +100% and aggregates the positive and negative societal contributions of a sector or company’s activities. Where we use this metric as part of our selection criteria for specific funds, we will only consider companies that score +10% or more.
Quantifying the societal impacts of economic activities is challenging – due to the diversity of issues and how they interlink, local particularities and the lack of consensus on solutions required, among others.
Through the Societal Contribution metric, which we started developing in 2016, we aim to objectively compare different business models and how they can address the major societal issues the world is facing.
Our methodology draws on the 17 SDGs and their 169 targets. It also includes macroeconomic and scientific data sourced from public research institutions, and from non-governmental organisations such as the Access to Medicine Foundation or the Access to Nutrition Initiative.
The main issues and related business activities covered by the four pillars, and the relevant SDGs and corresponding targets, are shown in Figure 1 below.
Not all pillars, SDG targets and sub-targets will apply to all companies. We outline which themes, issues and indicators are applicable to companies operating in particular sectors – which we call sector frameworks – based on where we think they can make a material contribution through their products and services.
Consequently, we only evaluate two or three pillars for some sectors, and companies. This is the case for the pharmaceutical sector, which we discuss in the example below.
We then use these sector frameworks to calculate the societal contribution of companies operating in those sectors.
Figure 1: Societal Contribution pillars
Assessing the four pillars
The Societal Contribution is the sum of a company’s positive and/or negative contributions to the relevant pillars. It includes:
- Contribution of products and services:
- We assess how a company’s activities contribute to Access and Inclusion, Health and Safety and/or Economic and Human Progress, based on a sector framework.
- Each activity is scored on its contribution, and each score is weighted based on the percentage of revenue that activity represents.
- We assess positive and negative contributions in the same way – using a sector-level baseline; a specific product-level indicator or – where something is difficult to quantify – applying a bonus or penalty in the presence or absence of a certain factor.
- Contribution through employment:
- We assess a company’s contribution as an employer using The Good Jobs Rating, a dedicated tool we developed in partnership with The Good Economy.
- It can vary between -25% and +25%. This scale has been defined to give the contribution of products and services a greater weight in the Societal Contribution, because we view it as the main contribution lever of a company.
Figure 2: Societal Contribution assessment
A company creating moderate positive contributions towards several issues can display a Societal Contribution similar to a company that contributes more strongly to a single issue.
Example of a sector framework: The Societal Contribution of pharmaceutical companies
Below we outline how we use a sector framework to determine the Societal Contribution of companies in the pharmaceutical sector.
We believe the pharmaceutical sector contributes to two material social issues:
- Therapeutic innovation (SDG targets 3.3 and 3.4)
- Access to medicine (SDG targets 3.8 and 3.b)
Contribution to therapeutic innovation (Health and Safety)
We assign a basic contribution to health of +25% to all companies in the pharmaceutical sector. We then calculate specific contributions for the following elements:
- Prescription and reimbursement procedures (over-the-counter or prescription medications, original brand or generic)
- Diseases addressed
- External evidence of therapeutic innovation
To assess the extent of contribution, we look at:
- Global health estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), to identify which diseases most contribute to the Global Burden of Disease;
- The databases of the European Medicines Agency, US Food and Drug Administration and Haute Autorité de Santé, to measure the extent of a company’s therapeutic innovation.
Finally, we assign a -10% penalty to all pharmaceutical revenues, to take into account the risk of side effects.
Contribution to access to medicine (Access and Inclusion)
We attribute a +25% contribution to revenues generated in developing countries (those classified as low- and middle-income countries by the World Bank).
We attribute a +25% contribution to revenue shares generated from generic drugs that help to reduce the price of medicines.
Some of the large pharmaceutical groups we evaluate are listed in the Access to Medicine Index. We give these companies a bonus score if they appear in the highest quartile for certain indicators from the ranking, such as the percentage of the product portfolio covered by equitable pricing strategies and the share of pipeline targeting health priorities in developing countries.
Contribution through employment
Finally, we assess a company’s contribution to employment based on The Good Jobs Rating. It assesses a company’s overall ability to create sustainable and quality job opportunities for all, and notably in areas – countries or regions – where employment is relatively scarce and therefore needed to ensure a sustainable and inclusive development.
We use three dimensions – quantity, quality & inclusion – to analyse the Employment factor. The methodology draws on company, regional and sector-based macroeconomic data.
Together, these contributions determine the Societal Contribution of pharmaceutical companies.
How the Societal Contribution is used in our investment process
We use the Societal Contribution metric as part of an in-house fundamental analysis model called SPICE, which focuses on five stakeholders (Society and suppliers; People (e.g. employees); Investors; Customers; and Environment).
Before making an investment, we assess how companies integrate sustainable development into their operations and business practices and score them on each stakeholder group accordingly.
A company’s Societal Contribution and a separate corporate citizenship rating form their score for the society stakeholder component (the S in SPICE).
We then use the overall SPICE rating as an investment selection criteria across all socially responsible investment funds.
In some cases, we also use the Societal Contribution as a standalone selection criteria for specific funds, and will only consider companies that score +10% or more.