Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE credits
Social Responsible Investments and Corporate Social Responsibility are terms that have become increasingly important in the business world of today. Fund companies have during the last years increased their work with issues such as human rights, environmental impact and business ethics before making an investment. The trend of today is rather to work as active owners and influence companies to change rather than passively excluding certain industries. Other investors whose business idea is to buy, create value and sell companies also use a very active owner strategy but historically focus has been on issues such as industrial development and financial performance and CSR issues have been left out. With this background I came up with the purpose of this study.
The purpose of this study is to create an understanding of if/how investors work with social responsible investments by engaging in corporate social responsibility issues, mainly during the ownership of a company. Further on the study aims to identify the differences between investment companies compared to fund companies when it comes to interest in and promotion of CSR issues as owners. Finally the study intends to create an understanding for the attitudes towards corporate social responsibility and social responsible investments from the investors’ point of view.
I have chosen to study five investors, two fund companies known for their work as active owners by engaging in CSR issues, and three investment companies who all work with engaging in CSR issues to different degrees. To be able to fulfill the purpose I needed deep information about the subject of study and I therefore chose a qualitative method and collected data from semi structured interviews at the investors’ offices in Stockholm. The empirical data was analyzed and interpreted with theories within the area of CSR, SRI and active ownership. The lack of specific theories on active ownership through engagement in CSR issues required the golden middle road as scientific approach since this approach enabled me to interact between theory and empirical reality.
Conclusions to be drawn from this study is that investment companies do not to a great extent work as social responsible investors by engaging in CSR issues. The reason for this is that the investment companies do not perceive that they are responsible but that the responsibility is rather on each of their holding companies. Another reason for not working with CSR issues is because their shareholders do not require them to do so. There is still a great lack of understanding of CSR and its possible connection to financial performance. If the investment company work with CSR it is either due to risk minimizing reasons or pure philanthropic reasons and not at all based on the fact that CSR can lead to innovation and competitive advantage.
The main difference between the fund companies and investment companies is that the fund companies have formalized their work with SRI and engage actively in CSR issues as owners but only in the so called SRI funds which are a significant small part of total invested capital and it is still hard to integrate CSR into the mainstream analysis. The other difference is that investment companies have greater ability to influence its holding companies if compared to the fund companies, and the investment companies use this possibility but mainly in issues such as strategic planning and financial performance and not so much in social or environmental issues.
Following concepts are the key concepts that are central and constantly recurring throughout this study.
• Corporate Social Responsibility
• Social Responsible Investments
• Holding companies
• Active ownership
• Investment companies
• Fund companies
Umeå: Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet , 2007. , 85 p.