What 20 years of ESG engagement can teach us about the future

What 20 years of ESG engagement can teach us about the future

In this episode of Sustainability Leaders we discuss the sea change that has taken place during the last 20 years of investor engagement.

Columbia Threadneedle Investments’ Responsible Investing team celebrated their 20th year of investor engagement in 2020. In that time, corporate engagement on ESG issues has gone from niche to relatively mainstream, but there is still much work to do help companies align their bottom lines with positive ESG changes in their business.

Jonathan Hackett is joined by Vicki Bakhshi, a Director in Columbia Threadneedle’s Responsible Investing team, to discuss the sea change that has taken place during the last 20 years of investor engagement. Plus, Vicki discusses what the team believes the next ten years will bring as engagement on ESG topics broadens to more companies in more countries than ever before.

In this episode:

  • What defines engagement as investors
  • 2000-2010: The first ten years of engagement
  • 2010-2020: Investor engagement becomes more mainstream
  • Looking to the future: Tying values to valuations
  • The impacts that engaged investors can have on global ESG progress


Vicki Bakhshi: Engagement, really it’s about a theory of change, is how I see it, is that we’re having dialogue with companies, and we’re looking for them to change, and we need to figure out, what are the levers that are best going to achieve that? And it definitely takes persistence over a period of time to do that. It’s not something we achieve through sending a single letter or having a single meeting.

Michael Torrance: Welcome to “Sustainability Leaders.” I’m Michael Torrance, Chief Sustainability Officer with Columbia Threadneedle Financial Group. On this show, we will talk with leading sustainability practitioners from the corporate, investor, academic and NGO communities to explore how this rapidly evolving field of sustainability is impacting global investment business practices and our world.

Legal disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of Bank of Montreal, its affiliates or subsidiaries.

Jonathan Hackett: I’m Jonathan Hackett, and welcome to “Sustainability Leaders.” My colleagues in Columbia Threadneedle Investments are celebrating 20 years of investor engagement in 2020. They have recently published a paper looking at their experience during those first 20 years, providing an overview of the responsible investing industry from the eyes of an active investor in companies around the world. Today, I’m joined by Vicki Bakhshi, a Director in Columbia Threadneedle Investments’ Responsible Investment Team, to discuss these past 20 years of engagement and to look forward to what the next 10 years will look like. Welcome, Vicki, and thank you for joining me today.

Vicki Bakhshi: Thanks, Jonathan. It’s great to be speaking to you.
Vicki Bakhshi
Vicki Bakhshi
Director, Responsible Investment

Vicki Bakhshi is BMO Global Asset Management’s Climate Strategist, working on the implementation of their Net Zero commitment, and heading up their climate integration and stewardship work. She also currently co-chairs the IIGCC’s Implementation Working Group for the Net Zero Investment Framework and the Climate Change Working Group of the Investment Association. Vicki has worked at BMO for 14 years, prior to which she worked on the Stern Review on the economics of climate change, and on international climate policy at 10 Downing Street.

Vicki Bakhshi
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