Furugård steps down from day-to-day role at engagement firm GES, Roberts named CEO

Industry pioneer will focus on strategic issues

Magnus Furugård, President and Managing Director of Sweden-based investor-corporate engagement services provider GES and one of the pioneers of investor/corporate engagement, is stepping down from day-to-day management of the firm to become its chairman.

Hanna Roberts, a former chair of Amnesty International’s International Executive Committee who has been with GES for eight years, will move up from her role as GES’s Engagement Director to become CEO. Roberts, who started with GES as a research analyst, is also a trustee of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and a former Chair of Amnesty in Sweden.

She will be succeeded as Engagement Director by Josiane Fanguinovény, who joined GES when it absorbed the five-strong Stewardship Services arm of Governance for Owners last year. The changes take place from September 1. GES advises on €trn worth of assets.

Furugård, a 58-year-old former Greenpeace campaigner who co-founded what went on to become GES in 1992 with Susanne Nyman, told RI he would focus more on strategic issues at GES. He explained that Roberts, was a “perfect match” for the role, given GES’s decentralized structure.Nyman left GES around a year ago to “take on new sustainability challenges”.

Looking back, Furugård said the industry had undergone “fantastic development” since the early 1990s.

There had been a quite dramatic change in the attitudes of both investors and companies: “You just have to look at the number of PRI signatories. But, beyond that, when we meet clients they know what they want.”

And the benefits of engagement? “We do that nearly every day!” Furugård says, pointing to GES’s system of evaluating both companies and engagement. Companies were also more open to dialogue, seeing it as an opportunity to use a “sounding board”.

Asked about industry consolidation, he said: “We’ve seen a lot, but I’m not sure we’re at the end of it.” While GES’s strategy was for organic growth, it was “open” to M&A, he added.

These comments will likely be of interest, not only as GES has a strategic partnership with Germany’s Oekom Research but also in the context of what Sustainalytics CEO Michael Jantzi has called the “second wave of consolidation” in the ESG research sector.

(Amends to update figure for assets under advice.)