On 8 October 2020, Ethos and BCV announced the conclusion of a long-term strategic partnership with the objective of creating a new center of expertise in sustainable finance in Switzerland. Initially, six funds from the Ethos range will be managed by BCV's Asset Management and administered by Gérifonds, a subsidiary of the BCV group in charge of fund management.
In September 2020, Ethos left its historic premises at Place de Cornavin, where the Foundation was created in 1997, to settle in a space twice the size in the heart of the new Lancy-Pont-Rouge business district, in Geneva.
At the end of May 2020, Ethos Services SA obtained the B Corp certification. This label, awarded by the non-profit organization B Lab, attests to the positive social and environmental impact of Ethos on society and is based on a detailed assessment of the company in five areas: governance, policies towards employees, relations with customers and the community and respect for the environment. With 109 points, Ethos ranked directly among the best service companies engaged in the B Corp movement.
In March 2020, new exclusion criteria were approved by the Ethos Foundation board. Since then, all companies that achieve more than 5% of their turnover in gas and oil of unconventional origin (tar sands, shale oil and gas, arctic drilling) have been formally excluded from all Ethos funds and investments. The same goes for the companies that participate in the transport of these energies.
In December 2019, the "Vontobel Fund (CH) - Ethos Equities Swiss Mid & Small Cap" celebrated its 15th anniversary. Total assets exceeded CHF 700 million and its annual performance was better than that of its benchmark - the SPI Extra - Total Return - for the twelfth time in 15 years.
On 2 December 2019, Ethos launched a second stock market index dedicated to the good governance of Swiss companies. The "Ethos Swiss Governance Index Large" follows the same methodology as the "Ethos Swiss Corporate Governance Index" (ESCGI) created in January 2017 but focuses on the 20 largest capitalizations of the Swiss stock exchange (SPI Large).
In June 2019, three Ethos funds were nominated for the "GFSI Swiss Sustainable Funds Awards", including the Vontobel Fund (CH) - Ethos Equities Swiss Mid & Small Cap, which won the "Swiss Equities Prize" of the year. This award recognizes the best Swiss equity fund both in terms of financial performance and for its commitment to socially responsible investment.
14th June 2018 marked an important milestone in the history of Ethos as Dominique Biedermann, the last representative of the founders, decided not to stand for a new term as chairman of the boards after 21 years of uninterrupted commitment to the development of Ethos, most of which as CEO.
Following the strong growth in activities over the past few years, the boards decided that henceforth two separate people would sit as chairmen of the Ethos Foundation and that of Ethos Services. Rudolf Rechsteiner, former National Councilor and a specialist in both occupational pensions and renewable energies issues, was therefore nominated as chairman of the Ethos Foundation board at the 2018 general assembly while Beth Krasna, who has a broad knowledge of corporate governance and an extensive experience in managing companies and directorships, took over the chairmanship of Ethos Services.
On 11 May 2018, the company Sika announced that an overall agreement had been reached with the Burkard family and Saint-Gobain, to the benefit of all parties involved in the conflict, while ensuring the independence of the company. Sika also announced the holding of an extraordinary general meeting in order to introduce a single class of registered shares and to remove the voting rights registration limit as well as the "opting out" clause. This agreement put an end to a dispute which had arose in December 2014 following the decision of the Burkard family to sell its stake (17% of the capital and 52% of the voting rights) to Saint-Gobain. For Ethos, who had obtained the status of accessory party alongside members of the board of directors unrelated to the Burkard family, this outcome was very satisfactory. It demonstrated the usefulness of strong shareholder engagement in order to preserve the independence of a company and promote equal treatment between shareholders.
On 2 February 2017, the Ethos Foundation celebrated its 20th anniversary. Several personalities, including Federal Councilor Simonetta Sommaruga and chairman of the board of directors of Novartis Jörg Reinhardt, participated in the festivities on the theme "As investors, we are building the world of tomorrow", which had already been the common thread of Ethos' first annual report in 1997. This anniversary was also an opportunity for Ethos to publish its eight principles for socially responsible investment (SRI).
In February 2017, Ethos also obtained approval from FINMA to open all its investment funds to private investors. Private individuals were therefore able to subscribe to units in Ethos funds under the same conditions as institutional investors and benefit from Ethos investment solutions resulting from its 20 years of experience in socially responsible investment (SRI) and combining best practices in this domain.
In January 2017, Ethos launched the first Swiss stock market index dedicated to corporate governance: The Ethos Swiss Corporate Governance Index (ESCGI). Launched in partnership with SIX Swiss Exchange, this index with its innovative methodology makes it possible to focus on Swiss equities while reducing exposure to serious governance risks by underweighting or excluding companies presenting such risks. It also reduces exposure to companies which are subject to serious ESG controversies and improves the carbon profile of the benchmark index (the SPI).
In October 2016, following the success of the shareholder dialogue program with companies listed in Switzerland, Ethos and six Swiss pension funds created a similar dialogue program, but this time with companies listed abroad: The Ethos Engagement Pool International (EEP International). Dialogue with these companies on issues of governance and social and environmental responsibility is conducted in particular by participating in international collective engagement initiatives. Thus, the members of the Pool benefit from an international network made up of institutional investors or groups of investors of which Ethos has been a member for many years.
Also in October, the strong and continuous shareholder commitment of Ethos Foundation in favor of maintaining the independence of the Sika company was rewarded when the Cantonal Court of Zug rejected the Burkard family's complaint against the Sika board of directors. Ethos decided to maintain its status of accessory party in this legal procedure during the Burkard Family’s appeal against the court decision confirming the board’s entitlement to limit the voting rights of the Burkard Family for votes related to the sale of their shares to the competitor Saint-Gobain.
In December 2015, the Ethos Foundation was accepted as accessory party in support of the board of directors of Sika in the ongoing legal procedure at the Cantonal Court of Zug. Ethos was therefore opening up a new avenue in the field of shareholder engagement.
In October 2015, on the eve of the Paris climate summit (COP21), Ethos launched an international equity fund made up of securities with low carbon emissions and joined the Montreal Carbon Pledge, a group of investors committing to publish the carbon emissions of all or part of their portfolios. Ethos now reports the carbon intensity of all of its equity funds.
On 12 June, 2015, during the general assembly of the Ethos Foundation, Kaspar Müller, chairman since 2007 and member of the board since the establishment of the Foundation in 1997, did not stand for re-election. Dominique Biedermann, who was until then CEO of Ethos, was elected to succeed him while Vincent Kaufmann, deputy CEO since 2013, became the new CEO.
In February 2015, Ethos Foundation welcomed its 200th member. This encouraging step reflected the great sign of confidence and the growing interest of the Swiss pension funds in socially responsible investment and the active exercise of shareholder rights.
In January 2015, Ethos launched a support group for its resolution calling for the removal of the "opting out" clause at Sika. This group quickly included 220 institutional and private investors representing 7% of the capital and 4% of the voting rights. At Sika's general meeting on 14 March 2015, the resolution won 97% support among shareholders unrelated to the Burkard family. The resolution was nevertheless rejected since the Burkard family had the majority of the votes and was opposed to it.
The voting obligation for Swiss pension funds led many pension funds to use Ethos’s voting recommendations for the exercise of voting rights on their Swiss shares. At the end of 2014, Ethos advised over 200 institutional clients who held nearly CHF 40 billion Swiss shares, which represented approximately 3.5% of the Swiss market capitalization.
On 8 December 2014, the main shareholder of Sika, the Burkard family, which held 16% of the capital and 52% of the voting rights, announced its intention to sell its shares to competitor Saint Gobain. This announcement provoked many hostile reactions. Ethos and 11 major Swiss institutional shareholders, in particular, decided to file a resolution calling for the removal of the "opting out" clause at the general meeting on 14 April 2015.
In September 2014, Ethos Services carried out a capital increase to finance its growth and developments related to the implementation of the Minder initiative. This capital increase was subscribed by 17 member institutions of the Ethos Foundation. The Ethos Foundation nevertheless retained two-thirds of the capital of Ethos Services.
On 16 May 2013, following the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh which killed more than 1,100 people, Ethos joined forces with 200 institutional investors from the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe, to put pressure on big brands and inexpensive clothing retailers and demand that they put in place sustainable procurement policies throughout their supply chain. The Ethos Foundation now regularly participates in international collective engagement initiatives.
In March 2013, the approval of the Minder initiative by the Swiss people followed by the publication of the Ordinance against Abusive Remuneration (ORAb) led to a significant increase in activities for Ethos. The voting obligation planned for the pension institutions from 2015 required an adaptation of the products offered. Ethos was notably required to expand its universe of analysis to all listed companies included in the SPI index and to develop an electronic platform to facilitate access to analysis for its clients.
In June 2012, the Ethos Foundation created the non-profit association Ethos Académie whose goal was to promote a stable and prosperous socio-economic environment. This corresponds to one of the two goals of the Ethos Foundation. Dick Marty, former Senator for the Canton of Ticino, chairs the Ethos Academy committee. By founding Ethos Academy, Ethos wanted to give private individuals the opportunity to contribute to a healthy and sustainable economy. Membership fees and donations collected are used in particular for civil society awareness projects.
On 3 May 2012, the general meeting of UBS rejected the proposed capital increase to finance employee participation plans. For the first time in Switzerland, shareholders opposed a proposal by the board of directors of a large company. They thus showed that they no longer agreed to endorse a system of remuneration deemed excessive. The remuneration report, submitted to an advisory vote, and the vote on the discharge of the board of directors were also contested with respectively 40% and 47% of the votes against. Ethos had recommended for its part to oppose the remuneration report, the capital increase, as well as the discharge.
As a preamble to the general meeting season, Ethos asked the 100 largest listed companies in Switzerland whether they voluntarily agreed to submit the report or the remuneration system to a consultative vote of shareholders at their next general meeting. 45 companies agreed to proceed to an advisory vote of the general assembly on the report or the remuneration system, which showed that the “Say on Pay” initiative led by Ethos over the past two years was starting to bear fruits.
In the field of socially responsible investment advice, Ethos also started to offer detailed analyzes and environmental, social and governance ratings for a wide range of Swiss and foreign companies. Ethos also supported portfolio analyzes based on extra-financial criteria or exclusion criteria.
The number of members of the Ethos Foundation continued to grow at a high rate for the third consecutive year. In all, 19 new members joined the Ethos Foundation in 2011, bringing their number to 124 at the end of the year. All members represented more than one million policyholders and CHF 150 billion under management, or nearly 25% of the second Swiss pillar.
In November 2010, the Ethos Foundation welcomed its 100th member. Ethos members now managed a fortune of nearly CHF 140 billion and represented around 900,000 active and retired policyholders.
In September 2010, the Ethos Engagement Pool, namely the dialogue program with listed companies in Switzerland created in 2004 with two pension funds, exceeded the threshold of 50-member pension funds.
In January 2010, a few weeks before its general meeting, Novartis announced to everyone's surprise that it was renouncing the accumulation of functions (chairman / CEO) and proposed to introduce a "Say on Pay" vote in its articles of association. These two decisions met the requirements of Ethos, which could therefore withdraw its two resolutions “Stop Chairman-CEO” and “Say on Pay” submitted to the agenda of the general meeting of 26 February 2010. Following the pressure exercised in particular by Ethos' “Say on Pay” resolutions, 20 companies among the largest stock market capitalizations in Switzerland agreed to take an advisory vote on the report or the compensation system.
In October 2009, Raiffeisen Switzerland entrusted Ethos with the exercise of the voting rights of the Swiss shares held in its various 3rd pillar products. Over the coming years, this mandate has been gradually extended to other funds, in particular the range of sustainable "Futura" funds.
On 14 July 2009, Ethos was awarded the 2009 Award from the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN). This award is considered the highest honor in the field of corporate governance and annually recognizes outstanding achievement in this field. According to the nomination committee, Ethos had significantly improved the state of governance and had produced a significant positive impact in its region.
Following Ethos’s "Say on Pay" initiative, four of the five target companies (ABB, Credit Suisse Group, Nestlé and UBS) agreed to introduce advisory votes on the report or remuneration system. Ethos could withdraw its resolution in these companies. However, Novartis’s board refused the advisory vote. Ethos’s resolution was therefore put to the vote of the general meeting on 24 February 2009 and won the support of 31% of the votes.
A second "Say on Pay" initiative was launched in the autumn on the model of that of the previous year. A "Say on Pay" resolution was filed with the four largest companies that had yet to introduce a shareholder advisory vote: Holcim, Novartis, Swiss Re and Zurich Financial Services. A "Stop Chairman CEO" resolution aimed at preventing the concurrent functions of chairman of the board of directors and CEO had also been filed with Novartis.
In September 2008, Ethos and eight pension funds launched a "Say on Pay" initiative with the five largest listed companies in Switzerland: ABB, Credit Suisse Group, Nestlé, Novartis and UBS. Ethos filed a resolution requesting an advisory vote on the remuneration report by the general meeting with each of the five companies in view of the ordinary general meeting in spring 2009.
On 27 February 2008, during the extraordinary general meeting of UBS the bank had called to request a capital increase, Ethos presented a resolution calling for special control following the bank's massive losses due to the "subprime" crisis. Ethos' resolution was supported by 44% of the vote. Following this result, UBS agreed to publish a detailed report on the situation of the bank and the measures taken in the context of the US mortgage crisis.
For the first time, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) survey was being conducted in Switzerland among the 50 largest listed companies, under the sponsorship of the Ethos Foundation and Pictet Asset Management. The full report on Swiss companies, written by Center Info, was presented in Geneva on 5 December 2007 in the presence of various personalities from the economic, financial and scientific world.
On 21 September 2007, to mark its tenth anniversary, Ethos organised a conference devoted to dialogue between shareholders and companies. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman of Nestlé, agreed to make the opening speech.
In December 2006, Ethos opened a representative office in Zurich.
In November 2006, Ethos published the first detailed study on the remuneration of the management bodies of the 100 largest listed companies in Switzerland. The Foundation called for shareholders to be able to vote in a consultative manner in the future on the remuneration policy of the management bodies of listed companies, a practice recommended by the OECD and which already worked very well in certain European countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden.
On 28 November 2006, Ethos became one of the first adherents to the Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI) launched by the United Nations.
At the Nestlé annual general meeting on 14 April 2005, following the nomination of Peter Brabeck as chairman and CEO, Ethos and five Swiss public pension funds filed a shareholder resolution requesting the separation of the two positions. To everyone's surprise, the resolution received a 36% support. The board of directors then agreed to initiate a process of comprehensive revision of the articles of association to improve the rights of shareholders. The new articles or association were then approved in 2008. A new CEO has been appointed and Peter Brabeck-Letmathe has then focused only on the function of chairman of the board of directors.
Ethos becomes a Swiss member of European Corporate Governance Services (ECGS).
Ethos launched a dialogue program with the 100 largest listed companies in Switzerland under the name Ethos Engagement Pool. The engagement aims at improving corporate governance and reinforcing the social and environmental responsibility of investee companies. The first activities of the Pool originated in a mandate given by two Public Pension Funds (The City of Zurich Pension Fund and the Pension Fund of the Hospitals in Geneva).
Ethos becomes a member of the three international investor groups Pharma Shareowners Group, Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) and Institutional Investor Group on Climate Change (IIGCC).
In May 2002, Ethos presented a shareholder resolution to the general meetings of Credit Suisse Group and Zurich Financial Services to prevent the combining of the functions of chairman and CEO. The resolution obtained the remarkable score of 19% at Credit Suisse Group and 36% at Zurich Financial Services. Within two months, the two CEOs (Lukas Mühlemann at Credit Suisse Group and Rolf Hüppi at Zurich Financial Services) were forced to step down.
Ethos became a member of the European Sustainable & Responsible Investment Forum (Eurosif) network.
Establishment of the company Ethos Services SA of which the Ethos Foundation is be the sole shareholder until 2014. Ethos Services aims to gradually take over all management and advisory services in the field of socially responsible investment (SRI) and active shareholding. At the same time, the Ethos Foundation focuses on its ideal goals of promoting SRI and fostering a prosperous socio-economic environment.
Ethos welcomed its 50th member.
Ethos opposed the merger between the two Swiss banking giants UBS and SBS fearing a systemic risk for the Swiss financial market in light of the size of the new bank UBS. A decade later, history will unfortunately prove Ethos right.
The Ethos Foundation was created in Geneva by a public pension fund (Pension fund of the employees of the Canton of Geneva - CIA) and a private pension fund (Pension fund of the enterprises of the building sector of Geneva - CPPIC). The purpose of the Foundation is to promote socially responsible investment. The members of the Foundation must be either Swiss pension funds or Charities.
At the end of the first year, Ethos had 25 pension fund members and manages a portfolio of CHF 270 million in Swiss and European shares.