Ninety One  

Ninety One calls out 'easy' practice of exclusion

Ninety One calls out 'easy' practice of exclusion
Nazmeera Moola, chief sustainability officer, Ninety One

It is going to become even more important for asset managers not to exclude certain sectors from their portfolios in coming years, the chief sustainability officer at Ninety One has said.

Nazmeera Moola told FTAdviser that the slowing investment into fossil fuels specifically shows the importance of asset managers engaging with “dirty” industries, but the industry still has a data problem.

We are going to see a major supply squeeze in fossil fuels over the course of the next three years because demand is not falling, she said, and yet supply has started to drop as there is less investment coming through.

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“Prices are going to be elevated, and you want the control of those cash flows to be in the hands of responsible owners."

If these stocks end up in private hands, the incentive is going to be just to maximise production, Moola said, rather than owned by those who support the transition to net zero emissions.

“The easy way to implement sustainability is to exclude and simply to say, ‘we don’t invest in those things’.”

She agreed it is more expensive and labour intensive to set up engagement strategies with firms to encourage them to develop transition plans, but Moola echoed Ninety One’s chief executive, Hendrik du Toit.

Last year, he criticised purity practises, saying they were not helping to fix the climate crisis and threatened to exacerbate an existing problem.

At the time, he said: “By myopically focussing on 'portfolio purity' and picking and choosing investments that make them look green without having to advocate for real-world carbon reduction, [investors] aren’t effecting the kind of change needed to tackle the climate crisis."

Moola took up the role of chief sustainability officer at Investec’s former asset manager in November last year, after the group’s head of sustainable investment left to join Newton Investment Management.

She is responsible for overseeing the firm’s sustainability initiatives, and was previously deputy managing director and head of South African investments at the firm.

Data is still a problem

In September last year the firm announced it has teamed up with Imperial College to produce a series of climate risk programmes for its employees.

The programmes will educate Ninety One’s employees on climate-related risks and opportunities, part of which will look into whether climate risks can be priced, and how this can be priced into portfolios.

Tom Nelson, co-head of thematic equity at Ninety One, said the initiative was the result of the firm's desire to pursue ‘sustainability with substance’ and holding itself to account on these issues.

He said: “It would be wrong to assume any of us have all the answers. We want to work with the minds that can sharpen our thinking." 

However, the quality and quantity of data in regards to ESG factors in firms is still an issue, Moola said.