Investors are moving to hold companies such as Amazon more accountable on workforce management during the COVID-19 crisis, Fiona Reynolds, the CEO of PRI, or the Principles for Responsible Investment, said in an exclusive interview for the latest episode of ESG Insider, an S&P Global podcast.
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, many governments have ordered social distancing and for people to stay home, with exception to essential workers. But this has meant that many companies that relied on people traveling, shopping, going out to eat for their revenues have experienced significant financial problems and many have furloughed or have been forced to lay off employees.
PRI's hundreds of signatory investors that collectively manage about $90 trillion in assets are "extremely concerned about what's happening within the workforces within the corporations that they're invested in," said Reynolds. PRI has organized focus groups aimed at helping investors engage with companies on coronavirus issues, including by asking questions of the companies at their annual shareholder meetings.
"We need to be stronger on social issues and human rights and make sure that the companies that we invest in understand that we care about the workforce," Reynolds said. "Because we know from all of the evidence, the academic evidence that is out there, (that) when you have a company that has happy employees, you're a better company and you perform better."
Reynolds also outlined how she envisions investor and government expectations might change on workforce issues coming out of the coronavirus crisis. PRI is a project the United Nations launched in 2006 that has evolved into an international network of investors who have agreed to apply six sustainability principles to their investment decisions and practices.
Also in the episode, Reynolds and S&P Global Market Intelligence e-commerce reporter Katie Arcieri outline the pressure Amazon has come under for worker safety issues both from employees and investors and how the company says it is working to address those concerns.