Case | HBS Case Collection | December 2011 (Revised May 2015)

Aviva Investors

by George Serafeim, Robert G. Eccles and Kyle Armbrester

Abstract

The Aviva Investors case describes the challenge of integrating sustainability considerations into the strategy and business practices of companies and into the decision making process of the investment community. Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva, was tasked with convincing the business community to incorporate material environmental and social factors, and a longer-term view in business decisions. To achieve this ambitious goal, Aviva and Waygood focused on transforming the accounting and auditing concept of materiality, the definition of which Aviva expanded to include environmental, social, and governance (ESG) information. Further, Aviva engaged directly with portfolio companies when their ESG performance was lagging and severe concerns existed about the management's and the board's ability to lead the organization. When portfolio companies resisted or ignored Aviva's approach, Waygood and his team used proxy voting to initiate change in the target company.
Aviva utilized the proxy voting approach in its campaign against Vedanta—a U.K.-based diversified mining company—which had come under intense scrutiny for multiple human rights and ethical violations. In response, Vedanta ultimately hired a chief sustainability officer and promised to incorporate sustainability into its strategy and business practices.
To broaden Aviva's reach and influence in the business world, Waygood focused on stock exchanges and the inclusion of sustainability metrics in public companies' reporting practice. Waygood and a coalition of investors had made progress with this approach as more stock exchanges were requiring companies to disclose sustainability metrics. The case closes with Waygood contemplating a series of questions about how Aviva could improve its engagement activities and improve the information environment, using stock exchanges as the lever for change.

Keywords: Investing; investment management; shareholder activism; disclosure; stock exchanges; sustainability; sustainable development; sustainability reporting; Investment; Business and Shareholder Relations; Environmental Sustainability; United Kingdom;

Citation:

Serafeim, George, Robert G. Eccles, and Kyle Armbrester. "Aviva Investors." Harvard Business School Case 112-047, December 2011. (Revised May 2015.)