Fund managers target Brazil’s largest companies in campaign against slave labour

Bovespa listed corpoates urged to sign up themselves and their suppliers to pact for ending indentured labour.

An investor campaign backed by some of the world’s biggest fund managers yesterday (March 18) said it would write to all companies listed on Bovespa, the Brazilian Stock Exchange, asking for information about policies to fight against slave labour in their operations and supply chains. The fund managers, including HSBC Global Asset Management, Banco Real Asset Management and Unibanco Asset Management, are working as a part of an initiative set up the Latin America Sustainable Finance Forum, a partnership between the International Finance Corporation, which is part of the World Bank group, and Fundação Getulio Vargas, the Brazilian higher education institution. The fund managers said they wanted to inform companies about the importance of slave labour to the investment community, both as an issue of reputation risk but also as a potential commercial and financial barrier tocompanies that could impact shareholder value. Investors close to the initiative said they had signed up other signatory members of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI) to the campaign. Slave labour issues in Brazil have been a focus of intense shareholder activity in recent years, notably regarding companies producing pig iron used in automobile construction and where investors including the BT Pension Scheme in the UK and Hermes, its wholly-owned fund manager, have allied with PRI signatories to campaign against indentured workers. The latest investor letter is urging companies listed on Bovespa to join the Brazilian National Pact to Eradicate Slave Labor, which has been set up International Labor Organization, Ethos Institute and NGO Reporter Brazil. It also urges companies to get their suppliers to sign up and for both to set up effective slavery monitoring mechanisms.