Industry Voice: Investing in the future of work

Rebecca White of Newton Investment Management says the pandemic has put more focus on ESG issues

clock • 3 min read

The global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have increased investors' focus on the role of companies in society, particularly around the treatment of their customers, suppliers and employees.

Notably, many workers who are on precarious contracts or receive low wages and few benefits are now viewed as essential to societal and economic systems. Furthermore, the pandemic has accelerated certain themes that have been observable for some time. These include digitalisation, automation, and a shift away from globalisation. 

Emerging from lockdown, a new business reality is likely to be that in order to attract top talent, companies will have to offer attractive, flexible work practices. This could have numerous long-term implications, such as a shift in the demand and pricing of commercial office space, increased attractiveness of suburban living, greater spending on home offices and entertainment, and less spending on business travel. 

We believe these pandemic-related factors and responses will change how we conduct business, and our lives, and will create both financial risks and opportunities for companies, which they will need to balance against their societal obligations. 

In this context, the future of work has become an essential part of the ‘S' in ESG. It will be important, for instance, to gain a sense of which companies view their employees as assets rather than budget-line items. Which businesses are providing training to equip staff for the future of work, paying a living wage that ensures adequate living standards, and being mindful of work-life balance considerations?

Although the focus on social issues appears to have intensified during the pandemic, these factors tend to be less well understood by investors owing to the lack of transparent, high-quality data or disclosures. That said, active engagement with companies can go a long way towards better understanding and influencing corporate culture. And, when dialogue fails to yield results, executives and boards can ultimately be held to account through the power of proxy voting. Unlike many of their passive counterparts, active managers also have the ability to divest where persistent engagement and voting activities do not achieve the desired outcomes.

Our daily experience tells us that the future of work is here. With recent Pensions Policy Institute research finding that 75% of pension schemes expect members to become more concerned about social factors in investment decisions1, it will become increasingly important for DC schemes to demonstrate that their investment approach incorporates such considerations.


Rebecca White is a responsible investment analyst at Newton Investment Management

Important information:This is a financial promotion. This article is for professional investors only. These opinions should not be construed as investment or any other advice and are subject to change. This article is for information purposes only. Any reference to a specific security, country or sector should not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell investments in those securities, countries or sectors. Issued by Newton Investment Management Limited, The Bank of New York Mellon Centre, 160 Queen Victoria Street, London, EC4V 4LA. Registered in England No. 01371973. Newton Investment Management is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, 12 Endeavour Square, London, E20 1JN and is a subsidiary of The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation. Newton Investment Management Limited is registered with the SEC as an investment adviser under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Newton's investment business is described in Form ADV, Part 1 and 2, which can be obtained from the website or obtained upon request. ‘Newton' and/or ‘Newton Investment Management' brand refers to Newton Investment Management Limited.

More on Defined Contribution

Aviva research finds women's pension pots are half the size of men's at 60-65 years old

Women retire with pots half the size of men's

Aviva says pension gaps widen ‘significantly’ from the ages of 30 and 35

Jasmine Urquhart
clock 02 March 2023 • 2 min read
Industry Voice: DC investment in a new market regime

Industry Voice: DC investment in a new market regime

Investment commentators are referring to the last 40 years as a ‘super bubble' or even the ‘greatest bubble of all time'.

Mitesh Sheth - CIO, Multi Asset, Newton Investment Management
clock 03 November 2022 • 5 min read
Industry Voice: Building sustainable DC defaults

Industry Voice: Building sustainable DC defaults

The role of sustainable indexing in evolving default pension offerings

clock 25 July 2022 • 3 min read