The pandemic has focused attention on companies’ treatment of employees and increased the need for employee protection, according to Pax World Funds.

Pax World Funds is working with companies in the United States and worldwide to protect workers who were put at risk because of the pandemic and to make sure concessions made in the beginning of 2020 by companies are not being eroded, said Julie Gorte, senior vice president for sustainable investing at Pax World Funds and Impax Asset Management, which advises Pax World Funds.

“The pandemic has highlighted the fact that companies that operate sustainably are the best at weathering a crisis,” said Gorte. Pax World Funds issued its 2020 Engagement Report on Monday highlighting the activities and accomplishments of the fund last year.

“We are keeping track of the companies that cut executive pay and took other steps during the beginning of the pandemic in order to pay employees or issue furloughs instead of terminations,” Gorte said. “Some of those companies already are restoring executive pay even as we are still in the first wave of the pandemic.”

David Loehwing, vice president of sustainable investing at Impax Asset Management, said in the report, “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many sustainability issues into sharper focus, especially in the social aspect of ESG. In the year ahead we’ll direct an even greater focus in this area, taking a close look at how companies are handling worker health and safety, human resources management, customer safety, and community impact. All these areas have been of concern to sustainable investors for a long time; the pandemic has brought them into the spotlight.”

In reviewing the accomplishments of 2019, Grote said progress is being made in pay equity for women and minorities. For instance, automotive parts supplier BorgWarner included a commitment to pay equity in its 2019 proxy statement, according to the engagement report.

In total, Pax World Funds worked with 150 companies on various issues during the year.

The firm continued a dialogue with Procter & Gamble Co. and Nestlé about the companies’ plastics reduction efforts in conjunction with As You Sow, an advocacy organization for sustainability.

Pax World Funds encouraged 49 companies to adopt renewable energy targets, science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets, and commitments to renewable energy and increased energy efficiency.

It promoted efforts at numerous companies to increase diversity on boards of directors.

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