This edition of Active Voice looks at Putnam’s second annual Corporate Sustainability Report. In an interview, Cathy Saunders shares highlights of the work in 2022 and how Putnam is advancing its mission.
AV: Putnam recently published its second Corporate Sustainability Report. How has the development of this annual publication influenced the firm’s thinking and processes?
CS: Putnam is proactive on matters of sustainability — in our business philosophy as well as our investment practices. The process of aggregating information about our work for this publication provides an opportunity to refocus on what matters most to our mission, our people, and our connections to the community. As we do in all parts of our business, we take an active approach to this work.
AV: What are some of the goals of your approach to sustainability?
CS: Putnam was founded on principles of prudent investing, client service, and thoughtful asset stewardship. Our efforts to define what matters are anchored by goals of helping people secure their financial well-being and sharpening our focus on sustainability and community impact.
To further this vision, we concentrate on:
- Strengthening our forward-thinking investment process
- Being diverse and inclusive
- Adhering to high ethical standards
- Supporting our community and stakeholders
- Being good stewards of the environment
AV: Could you share some highlights of the 2022 Corporate Sustainability Report?
CS: The publication is organized into seven sections.
Sustainable investing. Since our founding over 85 years ago, we’ve focused on active strategies grounded in fundamental research, risk mitigation, and the optimization of financial outcomes. Our sustainable investment strategies are driven by ESG [environmental, social, and governance] integration and materiality, research-driven investment, sustainable equity, fixed income ESG, and the development of industry-leading research on specific sustainability themes and issues.
Sustainability strategy engagement and stewardship. For more than two decades, Putnam has worked to develop a sustainability strategy that encompasses stewardship, engagement, partnerships, and a company-wide integration of ESG strategy. We believe that transparent governance regarding all material business issues, combined with active management, benefits all investors and stakeholders.
Culture and associate well-being. Our workforce is our greatest asset. We strive to maintain a culture where associates feel respected and ready to achieve. We have established a diversity and inclusion program that recognizes the value of a range of perspectives and contributions. Our new hybrid work model has proven overwhelmingly popular and productive.
Sustainability in the workplace. Putnam has reduced consumption and waste throughout its global operations and leveraged sustainability in our procurement processes. A key component of this effort has been an enhanced focus on sustainability and supplier diversity, inspired by our association with the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council [GNEMSDC].
Partnerships and community. Putnam’s focus on sustainability includes a range of programs for economic and workforce development, innovation, and diversity and inclusion. We are engaged with industry and civic partnerships, including Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, GNEMSDC, Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, Massachusetts High Technology Council, and the New England Council. Many of our associates are also engaged as volunteers, donors, and board members of nonprofit and civic institutions.
Advocacy and education. It is vitally important to advocate for a regulatory landscape that supports investors and those who serve them. Our team engages with policymakers on multiple issues at the local, state, national, and global levels. We also provide best-practice education to help consultants and financial professionals better serve their investor clients.
Ethics, compliance, and data security. The highest ethical standards for associates, strict adherence to regulations and rules, and comprehensive data security are integral to our operation as a global asset manager. We take our fiduciary responsibilities seriously and minimize risks to the firm, with a goal of supporting better outcomes for clients.
AV: How does the 2022 Corporate Sustainability Report differ from the inaugural edition?
CS: When we produced our first Corporate Sustainability Report, we developed a cross-functional team from across the firm. We included multiple departments, varying professional disciplines, and diverse demographics and experience levels. We built a structure to identify critical themes and targets, including mechanisms for measuring progress. For this report, we added new focus areas such as stewardship and engagement, advocacy and education around financial literacy, and a detailed examination of sustainable investment practices.
In an ongoing effort, we are building our capabilities using financial tools and content to provide concrete measurement and the development of informational dashboards. We are also designing surveys to get feedback and help us develop new ideas for our ongoing reports.
Traditional RFPs [requests for proposals] in our industry have not generally included much discussion about sustainability. This is changing. We want to accelerate this evolution, positioning Putnam as a leader of sustainability — in our workplace, in relationships with clients and community stakeholders, and of course, in our array of sustainable investment strategies.
See our sustainability milestones in our Corporate Sustainability report.
To explore the full report, visit our Corporate sustainability page.