ESG Portfolio Spotlight:
First Quarter 2021

ESG Portfolio Spotlight: <br/>First Quarter 2021

Westmount’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Portfolio allocates clients across a diverse selection of investment managers that directly support innovative companies driving positive social change. Westmount’s ESG managers are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a globally recognized framework adopted by the U.N. General Assembly to collaboratively tackle humanity’s most pressing issues.

Portfolio Spotlight: Domini Impact International Fund

The Domini Impact International Fund invests in global companies that seek to advance universal human dignity and ecological sustainability in some of the world's least-developed regions. In addition to including companies that meet Domini's environmental, social, and corporate responsibility standards, the Fund proactively excludes certain lines of business, including weapons and firearms, nuclear power, fossil fuels, coal and uranium mining, for-profit prisons, tobacco, alcohol and gambling.

Below are a few examples of community projects that have been enabled by funds provided through Domini:

Delivering Equitable COVID-19 Treatments to Underdeveloped Countries

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent vaccine rollout have exacerbated existing inequities in access to medical care and other public health resources. Although wealthy countries like the U.S. have the necessary infrastructure and assets to secure doses for their citizens, global supply is limited and competition is fierce. In many cases, underdeveloped countries simply cannot afford to outbid wealthier countries for access to these treatments.1

Doing their part to address this disparity is Sanofi, an international pharmaceutical company with an established track record of improving equitable access to health treatments in low-income countries. Sanofi, which is currently developing its own COVID-19 vaccine, has committed to providing over 200 million doses to underserved countries once it has been approved for public use.

Vaccine development is a more recent focus for Sanofi, but promoting equitable access to medical care has been a longstanding priority. Through a well established partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), Sanofi also works to provide affordable treatments for rare tropical diseases in low-income, tropical countries. The partnership was created following one of the worst outbreaks of Human African Trypanosomiasis (also known as “sleeping sickness”) in recent history, which affected more than 300,000 people across sub-Saharan Africa.

Traditionally, sleeping sickness treatments were complex and difficult to access for large portions of the population, leading to thousands of otherwise preventable deaths. Working with the WHO, Sanofi developed an alternative treatment for the disease, leading to a 97% reduction in the total number of infections reported to the WHO between 2001 and 2019, all at no cost to patients.2 Sanofi and the WHO recently renewed their partnership to support further efforts to eradicate sleeping sickness by 2030.3 The success of the partnership has also allowed Sanofi to expand their focus to include nearly 20 more bacterial, parasitic, viral and fungal infections that are prevalent in tropical low-income countries.

Powering Local Economic Growth in the Developing World

Schneider Electric is an internationally recognized energy management company that specializes in improving sustainability and energy efficiency for companies worldwide.4 Among their many sustainability-focused initiatives, Schneider's Access to Energy program has received praise for its focus on stimulating local economies in low-income countries through the introduction of energy resources.

Around the world, nearly 840 million people lack access to basic electricity services5, resulting in limited local economic development and stagnant social mobility. Through the Access to Energy program, Schneider seeks to improve community infrastructure using affordable electric “microgrids.” These stand-alone renewable energy products can power individual households, businesses, and community infrastructure at a minimal cost.

Schneider's Access to Energy program has had a particularly strong impact on local agriculture business operations, leading to new job creation and economic growth in a variety of sectors. To ensure a reliable local talent pipeline to fill these new jobs, the program also offers an energy-specific jobs and management training program, which provides everything from basic jobs training to expert-level diplomas that directly carry over into local employment opportunities and electrification projects. Schneider also offers business management courses to support local entrepreneurs and help them scale their businesses, ensuring the continued growth of opportunities in the local energy sector. To date, over 250,000 individuals in less developed countries have taken part in Schneider's Access to Energy training program.

Improving Wireless Banking Access Across Africa

While many know Vodafone as one of Europe's largest telecommunications providers, few are aware of the substantial impact Vodafone and its extended platform M-Pesa have had on local and regional economies in Africa.

Research has shown that broad access to wireless communication technologies is strongly correlated with greater economic development.6 For the last 30 years, Vodafone has sought to improve wireless access and assist in strengthening local African economies by installing communications infrastructure and broader service coverage. However, local economic growth has been hampered by a lack of widespread access to traditional banking services. Traditionally, only the wealthiest individuals in large cities could access these services, leaving the majority bound to a riskier, cash-based economy.

To combat this disparity, Vodafone launched its M-Pesa service in 2007, which provides a flexible and secure mobile money and banking service for low-income households. Through M-Pesa, Vodafone gave millions the ability to securely store and transfer funds regardless of location or income. Since then, the platform has expanded to include overdraft protection, investment accounts, loan opportunities, and even affordable healthcare options. The security and availability of traditional banking offered by M-Pesa has had a measurable impact on individual households, helping to lift over 190,000 households out of poverty in Kenya alone.7

M-Pesa's subsequent introduction of business management tools and funding resources has also helped small businesses accelerate growth and streamline management. Broader market reach through secure business transactions has assisted in increasing revenues, while other management tools available on the platform have improved operational efficiency. These tools have been particularly impactful for female business owners, who often have limited access to such resources. The direct impact is evident again in Kenya, as M-Pesa's business tools have helped over 185,000 women transition from full-time farm labor jobs to sales and business positions.8

Have questions about our ESG offering or investment platform? Call us at 310-556-2502 or email info@westmount.com to speak with an advisor today.

Sources


Disclosures

This report was prepared by Westmount Asset Management, LLC (“Westmount”). Westmount is registered as an investment advisor with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The information contained in this report was prepared using sources that Westmount believes are reliable, but Westmount does not guarantee its accuracy. The information reflects subjective judgments, assumptions and Westmount’s opinion on the date made and may change without notice. WAM undertakes no obligation to update this information. It is for information purposes only and should not be used or construed as investment, legal or tax advice, nor as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security. No part of this report may be copied in any form, by any means, or redistributed, published, circulated or commercially exploited in any manner without WAM’s prior written consent. If you have any comments or questions about this report, please contact us at info@westmount.com.