By recruiting Sondre Myge Haugland, SKAGEN is further strengthening its work to integrate and promote sustainability in the funds’ investments.
Sondre has been preoccupied with social issues since childhood. He has a Master’s degree in political economics and has previously worked as an energy broker, during which time he gained experience building a broad portfolio of financial products.
It should never just be about looking good on paper. We have to deal with global realities and find opportunities to use our influence
Sustainability more than just a trend
In SKAGEN, Sondre manages the sustainability policy. In close cooperation with the portfolio managers, each potential company is screened against the guidelines, both before an investment is made and after a company has entered the portfolio.
He also travels to meet clients, participates in conferences and works to develop and communicate how SKAGEN works with sustainability. Sondre is keen to avoid “green washing,” i.e. when a company tries to appear more sustainable than it really is.
“It should never just be about looking good on paper! We have to deal with global realities and find opportunities to influence by means of active ownership to bring about real change. In SKAGEN, we engage with companies and want to be part of their sustainability journey in order to make a real difference. Moreover, we must combine this with delivering good returns. Our portfolio managers are good at assessing whether an investment is sustainable. They don’t just throw themselves onto the green wave – instead they prioritise long-term considerations."
Active ownership makes a difference
SKAGEN has a value-based investment philosophy which consists of finding undervalued companies with the potential for repricing. Portfolio managers often go against the tide and invest in companies that may have a poor reputation within sustainability but which are undertaking positive initiatives and demonstrating a clear willingness to improve in this area.
As an extremely active owner, SKAGEN engages with each portfolio company and works with them to reach their goals. In this way, the company’s valuation may increase as the outside world gradually becomes aware of the improvements.
While, historically speaking, sustainability has been a more defensive part of company analysis, centred around handling and avoiding risk, today it is more about identifying opportunities and creating value through environmental, social and governance (ESG) related improvements. Working with companies to make sustainability improvements is a way of creating excess return.
“We should be good investors and all investments should be sustainable. Nonetheless, we must also combine this with our main objective of creating solid returns for our unit holders,” says Sondre.
His aim is that in five years time, SKAGEN does not work invisibly, but clearly shows more of the hard work and engagement that is done with companies and responsible investments.
“Everyone should be aware of where SKAGEN stands in relation to sustainability and know that this is an integral part of SKAGEN’s identity,” he explains.