Although companies and investors have met to discuss sustainability issues for many years, this practice has grown substantially in recent years and has become much more formalised to the significant benefit of both parties.


Five years ago, the process of company-investor communications was dominated by CSR reports and rating agency questionnaires.  Although theoretically designed with investors in mind, neither of these really met the needs of an increasingly sophisticated investor base and they soon frustrated the more progressive companies who saw them as an unsatisfactory one-way communications process.

To address these inadequacies, the UK Social Investment Forum worked with a number of brokers to organise sector conferences in which companies presented directly to investors and took questions from them.  Over a relatively short period of time, these set-piece conferences morphed into more tailored events in which individual companies mixed combinations of formal presentations, small group meetings, videoconferences, webcasts, 1-on-1 investor meetings etc. in a way that best suited their investor communications objectives.  Such events were typically (but not exclusively) facilitated by brokers who guided companies, enthused investors and generally oiled the logistical wheels.  These meetings have proved mutually-beneficial – so beneficial that they have become, for many large European companies, an established part of the sustainability reporting processes.  Indeed over 250 have taken place in the last five years.

In the USA, SIRAN (Sustainable Investment Research Analysts Network) is developing a programme to do the same for US companies and investors.

Advantages of face-to-face meetings

Face-to-face investor meetings have a number of significant advantages over reports, questionnaires and AGM resolutions which soon outweigh the marginal resource required to set them up:

  • Direct: The direct nature of face-to-face meetings enables companies to present their sustainability performance in their own terms (rather than against a framework set by others), to set it within the context of their business environment, to address questions and misconceptions as they arise and ensure that their position is accurately understood
  • Feedback: meeting with investors is the most efficient way for companies to gain accurate information about the interests and priorities of their investors; to separate genuine interest from the spurious; to gather feedback and to ensure that they respond effectively to the specific interests of specific investors – rather that to the general public representation of “what investors want”.
  • Mainstream – a process that models what happens between companies and ‘mainstream’ investors is an essential step towards interesting ‘mainstream’ investors with sustainability issues and information