On April 30, 2020 the Workforce Disclosure Initiative (WDI) released its 2019 annual report. Coordinated by ShareAction and supported by more than 130 investors, including Ethos and the members of the Ethos Engagement Pool International, this initiative calls for greater transparency by listed companies regarding the management of workers in their direct operations and supply chains. An additional 28 of the targeted companies agreed to complete the WDI questionnaire in 2019 bringing the total number of responding companies to 118.

On April 30, 2020 the Workforce Disclosure Initiative (WDI), supported by Ethos and the members of the Ethos Engagement Pool International, published its 2019 annual report. The 130 investors supporting this initiative collectively have more than USD 14'000 billion of assets under management. A total of 750 companies were invited to participate in the WDI survey in 2019. 118 companies from 17 countries completed the questionnaire, including for the first time companies from South Africa, Brazil and Russia. A number of large companies such as BT, Microsoft, Unilever, Nestlé and Glaxo Smith Kline responded for the third consecutive year.

The WDI survey consists of 180 questions across 10 thematic areas such as workforce stability, human capital development and workers' rights in the supply chain. Responses covered 10 million people employed directly by companies and many more in their supply chains. The increase in the number of companies that voluntarily agreed to respond to the questionnaire is welcome but remains comparatively low at a time when more and more investors are calling for greater corporate transparency on ESG matters.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is significantly disrupting the world as we know it and putting the social dimension back at the core of responsible investment. It reveals the importance of protecting workforces and building responsible and resilient supply chains. By promoting transparency regarding corporate policies and practices that define the lives of workers around the globe, the WDI aims to improve the quality of jobs in companies’ direct operations and supply chains. Encouraging companies to better look after their staff and suppliers is a means to prevent social unrest and extreme political outcomes, thus essential for stable societies and markets. For long-term oriented institutional investors, it is crucial to integrate reliable and comparable data points on how companies manage social issues into investment decisions.

Against this backdrop, the WDI is a very valuable tool for Ethos’ dialogues with companies. Ethos is proud to support the WDI as it enters a new phase and turns into an independent organization. As part of its engagement activities with listed companies, Ethos will ask the companies targeted by this initiative to fill in the questionnaire and to ensure that they comply with the best practices identified.