Next European Commission should pay more attention to stewardship, says Martindale

Former Cardano co-head of sustainability floats idea of EU stewardship code as he speaks to RI about new consultancy.

The incoming European Commission has an opportunity to do more on stewardship and should pay more attention to the topic, the former co-head of sustainability at Cardano and PRI policy director has said as he launches a new ESG consultancy.

Will Martindale, who spent three years at Cardano and just over seven heading up the PRI’s policy and research division, said that one of the major differentiators between the UK and the EU had been the latter’s relative lack of interest in stewardship.

There are a number of approaches EU regulators could take, he said. This could take the form of trying to set minimum standards on stewardship, for example through the Shareholder Rights Directive, or setting out what high quality stewardship looks like.

This latter approach could be accomplished through a voluntary stewardship code, or formalising fund labels with a set of minimum requirements for stewardship.

Martindale’s consultancy, called Canbury, will aim to provide a range of services from research collaborations to engagement and data. One of its offerings is helping outside asset managers make sense of the regulatory environment in the EU and UK.

Martindale warned that there is a transatlantic divide in regulatory ESG efforts.

“The transatlantic divide is a really interesting feature of the evolution of responsible investment,” he said. The EU and UK approach has been focused around disclosure obligations including TCFD, SDR and SFDR and stewardship disclosures, while the US has taken a fiscal interventions approach.

The US approach, Martindale said, “has shifted the economics of sustainability issues and made sustainable fund management an effective way in which to structure portfolios and seek alpha”.

He added, however, that the transatlantic gap appears to be narrowing despite the US ESG backlash. This is because of the increased focus on ISSB and TCFD reporting globally, as well as the “deep pockets of high conviction sustainable asset management in the US and deep pockets of experience and leadership on sustainable investment topics”.

Martindale, who is going into business with colleague and former Cardano head of UK ESG services Ben Wilmot, is reuniting a number of former colleagues at the PRI. Joining him to work with Canbury are Michal Fonea Alexandron, who was a senior manager for networks and global outreach, and Rob Nash, who left his role as the PRI’s head of legal framework for impact in July. Canbury has also partnered with Acrux, a consultancy founded by the PRI’s former head of global networks Maria Laura Tinelli.

While he declined to provide names, Martindale said Canbury had already signed up clients, and had been having conversations with asset managers in the UK, EU, US and Australia as well as one manager in Canada. These potential clients range from sub-£1 billion managers to those with “many billions”.

He added that the consultancy aims to provide “end to end” sustainability services, combining services that are usually offered by separate providers into one coordinated offering. The offering combines Martindale’s policy and regulation experience with Wilmot’s technology background and sustainability and investment competence.