Priorities change quickly when entering in a pandemic, but what about when exiting one? Fidelity International’s November 2020 monthly analyst survey revealed how social priorities such as employee welfare and external stakeholders had rocketed up the corporate agenda when compared with pre-pandemic times at the start of the year. Then, in the 2021 annual survey published this month, we asked our analysts to rank the same priorities for their companies over the coming year. 

This week’s Chart Room shows how the collective corporate focus may be shifting back towards the pre-pandemic priorities of growth investment, shareholder returns, and mergers and acquisitions, while social factors are becoming relatively less important in corporate agendas.

The responses suggest that companies’ ESG strategies are strongly influenced by changes in government policy and investor behaviour, as well as the prevailing direction of public discourse. As the Covid-19 crisis recedes, environmental factors are likely to take centre stage again among ESG considerations. But the survey results also suggest that social issues will continue to matter, not least as climate-driven risks start to have a bigger impact on populations and lay bare social divides.

The overall takeaway is that progress among corporates in adopting more sustainable approaches to investing is still uneven. While the survey revealed some positives, such as more companies across the world taking their carbon emission targets seriously, it is imperative that active investors like Fidelity need to continue engaging with managements to ensure these commitments ripen into outcomes. The survey also shows where companies will need to continue to be held to account as lockdowns ease.  

For more details, please see Analyst Survey 2021: Race is on to achieve net zero

Jenn-Hui Tan

Jenn-Hui Tan

Global Head of Stewardship and Sustainable Investing