By Nersan Naidoo

CEO, Sanlam Investments

The sustainability of South Africa is dependent on addressing transformation in its broadest sense. The recent Sanlam Gauge shows SA Inc’s progress has stalled when it comes to the country’s collective contribution level, tracked over the last 10 years. In addition, evidence suggests South Africa lags when it comes to sustained ESG integration.

In fact, 80% of SA organisations have yet to make a net-zero commitment, according to PwC. Research by Oxford University shows a direct correlation between the corporate sector’s ESG performance and a country’s living standard. Sustainable investing could play a pivotal role in incentivising greater commitment to transformation to move the nation forward.

Recognising its role in driving a nation-wide sustainability agenda, Sanlam Investments has reconfigured its model to be purpose-led, with the mission to become Africa’s preeminent sustainable investment house. Asset managers are custodians of considerable capital, which gives them significant power to influence decisions that support transformation and financial inclusion. Nersan Naidoo, Chief Executive of Sanlam Investments, says that given this, the group is focused on fostering a more inclusive and accessible future for all.

Sustainable investing to move the needle for SA Inc.

“Sanlam Investments is now a black-owned asset manager, which is a vital step towards our mission to help transform the asset management industry. The advancement of broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) in our country is a vital part of what we believe comprises a complete sustainable investing framework.

“It speaks directly to the need for addressing societal fractures and widening wealth and income inequalities. B-BBEE addresses  a massive part of the ‘S’ in ESG. For too long, corporate SA’s focus has been on short term gains rather than long-term sustainability. Sanlam Investments is in the business of garnering robust financial returns – AND long-term positive social impact.”

Naidoo believes that sustainable investing plays a pivotal part in this. “At Sanlam Investments, we want to be agents of change and bring financial independence to all South Africans by investing in job creation, reducing our carbon footprint and helping clients retire with dignity. We are leading the way towards sustainable investing.”

Sanlam’s sustainable investing journey

Sanlam Investments believes that safeguarding economic, environmental and social assets is the foundation for a healthy economy that generates sustainable returns for the future. Accordingly, it has:

  • Embedded ESG frameworks to guide informed investment decision-making.
  • Adhered to the global Principles for Responsible Investment, as supported by the UN, and adopted the Code for Responsible Investing in South Africa, and our country’s National Development Plan.
  • Formed the Sustainable Investment Steering Committee to drive its ESG and sustainable investment agenda.
  • Adopted organisational key performance indicators, with a focus on successful ESG integration.
  • Introduced the Satrix Inclusion and Diversity ETF, which gives investors exposure to the top 30 JSE-listed companies that best demonstrate the values of inclusion and diversity in the workplace.
  • Partnered with Intellidex, the Sunday Time Business Times, KhumaloCo and Arena Holdings to conduct the annual Sanlam Gauge, which is first-of-its kind research to investigate the transformation of the SA economy, with scorecards per sector.
  • Launched the Investors Legacy Range: Three impact funds with the aim to raise R7 billion to support struggling businesses – and, ultimately, create and preserve jobs. They comprise a SME debt fund, a private equity fund and senior debt fund, all aligned with the UN’s sustainable development goals.
  • Founded the Resilient Investment Fund, which is a private debt fund focused on helping established SMEs to grow their businesses.
  • Formed an exclusive partnership with Robeco to help integrate global best practice in ESG into Sanlam Investments. Robeco is widely recognised as one of the best in the world when it comes to sustainable investing.
  • Started the Sanlam Sustainable Infrastructure Fund, which aims to build tangible assets that are useful and sustainable. Sanlam is uniquely positioned as an infrastructure investor with a long track record, originating over R6 billion in assets.
  • Partnered with FMO, the Dutch Development Bank, to launch Climate Fund Managers, which uses blended finance methods to combat the climate crisis, through long-term sustainable infrastructure in developing markets worldwide.

Naidoo concludes, “The world faces a complex web of environmental, social and governance risks. To create positive outcomes and mitigate negative ones in this new world of change, asset managers need to be more proactive and practical as we mobilise capital toward a greater purpose.”