Human Rights in the Global Supply Chain and its Relevance for Investors

An interview with Dan Viederman, CEO of Verité

An interview with Dan Viederman, CEO of Verité

Over the past several years, we have highlighted the many areas where as responsible investors, we can have an impact by incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues into our investment analysis. In the area of Human rights, which can encompass a broad range of issues that can be directly or indirectly related to a company’s business, we’ve focused on supply chain complexity and associated industry and geographic exposure.

Every business has a critical role to play in better identifying and understanding the relevant ESG risks that exist throughout its supply chain and related impacts on all stakeholders. In our view, a tightly managed supply chain is a reflection of thoughtful management focused on key metrics such as reliability, integrity, efficiency, internal compliance standards, and staying ahead of the evolving global regulatory landscape.

Given the complexity and global footprint of supply chains, ESG issues can vary by country depending on how the related industry has taken root in the region and whether there is a presence or lack of responsible government oversight. By the time clothing, shoes, electronics and food products reach consumers in the U.S., they have already been touched by the hands of multiple workers spanning across several countries worldwide before arriving on our shelves. Within the garment industry for example, approximately 98% of apparel sold in the U.S. is made internationally, primarily in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh. Looking to our supermarket shelves, Malaysia and Indonesia together produce up to 85% of the world’s palm oil supply, which is driven by growing global demand for its use in a range of consumer products such as packaged foods, cosmetics and detergents. When thinking about smartphones and other consumer electronic devices we use in our everyday lives, almost all are manufactured outside of the U.S. Despite where they are actually assembled, the many intricate components that go into a smartphone, including the metals and materials used to make them, are mined and sourced from around the world.

We often reach out to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), governmental/regulatory agencies, industry associations and other companies with related business activities so as investors we are better equipped to examine the complex social and environmental implications of businesses throughout their operations. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dan Viederman, CEO of Verité, a nonprofit organization with the mission to ensure that people around the world work under safe, fair and legal conditions. He has partnered with corporations, suppliers, civil society and investors who are interested in improving socially responsible, safe and fair working conditions globally.

An investor should consider the Neuberger Berman Socially Responsive Fund’s Investment objectives, risks, and fees and expenses carefully before investing. This and other important information can be found in the Fund’s prospectus, which you can obtain for free by calling 877.628.2583. Please read it carefully before making an investment.

Mid-capitalization stocks are more vulnerable to financial risks and other risks than larger stocks. They are generally less liquid than larger stocks, so their market prices tend to be more volatile. Large-cap stocks are subject to all the risks of stock market investing, including the risk that they may lose value.

To the extent the Fund invests more heavily in particular sectors, its performance will be especially sensitive to developments that significantly affect those sectors. Individual sectors may move up and down more than the broader market. The several industries that constitute a sector may all react in the same way to economic, political or regulatory events.

With a valuation sensitive approach, there is also the risk that stocks may remain undervalued during a given period. This may happen because value stocks, as a category, lose favor with investors compared to growth stocks, or because of a failure to anticipate which stocks or industries would benefit from changing market or economic conditions.

Although they may add diversification, foreign securities can be riskier, because foreign markets tend to be more volatile and currency exchange rates fluctuate. There may be less information available about foreign issuers than about domestic issuers.

The Fund’s social policy could cause it to underperform similar funds that do not have a social policy. Among the reasons for this are: undervalued stocks that do not meet the social criteria could outperform those that do, economic or political changes could make certain companies less attractive for investment, and the social policy could cause the Fund to sell or avoid stocks that subsequently perform well. Changes in currency exchange rates bring an added dimension of risk and could erase investment gains or add to investment losses.

This material is presented solely for informational purposes and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice,or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment or strategy is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were, or will be, profitable. Third-party economic or market estimates discussed herein may or may not be realized and no representation is being given regarding such estimates. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. All information is current as of the date of this material and is subject to change without notice. Unless otherwise indicated, returns shown reflect reinvestment of dividends and distributions. Data is not representative of any Neuberger Berman investment product or service and does not reflect the fees and expenses associated with managing a portfolio. Indexes are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment. Investing entails risks, including possible loss of principal. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Holdings referenced herein reflect those of the manager’s composite of accounts under his/her management, as well as holdings within the Neuberger Berman Socially Responsive Fund and were not selected on the basis of performance. Rather they were selected because they represent companies that have made significant efforts to promote sustainability throughout their supply chains. Specific securities identified and described do not represent all of the securities purchased, sold or recommended for advisory clients. Individual account holdings may vary. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities identified or discussed were or will be profitable.

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