“Making music contributes to a vital society,” says Henk Jonker, investment analyst at Triodos Investment Management. “Brain research has shown that making music has a positive impact on memory development. Furthermore, making music boosts empathic ability.”
Jonker mentions another important argument for investing in this company: “Yamaha not only makes musical instruments and advanced recording equipment for music studios, but also runs its own music schools in Japan and other Asian countries. The company thus makes making music accessible to children in the rapidly expanding middle classes in many Asian countries. This social involvement really appeals to us.”
The Triodos investment funds apply strict criteria when selecting listed companies. Does Yamaha meet all those criteria?
“Not quite. Because for the production of some of its instruments the company uses wood that has not been certified as sustainable, for instance by FSC. And of course, that does not align with what we expect from the companies we invest in: i.e. that all wood must be certified. However, Yamaha has an exceptional position. For the production of certain instruments, it needs to use various unusual types of wood that are grown especially for Yamaha by a small number of forestry companies, mainly in Scandinavia and North America. For most of these types of wood sustainable certification is not even available.”
That could also have been a reason to not invest in the company.
“Absolutely, and it was quite dilemma. But we take a broad and comprehensive view of the companies that we invest in and base our decision on that. Yamaha is a sustainable and socially engaged company in many respects.”
How is that apparent?
“Take for instance the wood that they use. The company has an extensive questionnaire that it uses to assess all the forestry companies that it deals with once every three years. This questionnaire is very similar to the list that certification organization FSC uses to assess wood producers. The fact that Yamaha takes such a thorough approach to its assessment gives us faith in the company's sustainable ambitions.”
“Moreover, Yamaha does buy certified wood whenever this is available. A case in point is African Blackwood. This wood is used for making instruments such as oboes and clarinets. Certification is available for African Blackwood and Yamaha only sources wood from certified producers. African Blackwood is produced almost exclusively in Kenya. Linked to its sourcing of wood in that country, Yamaha has set up a number of social programmes for the local population of regions where the wood is produced, for instance subsidizing schools and employment programmes.”
How do you monitor whether Yamaha continues to operate sustainably enough?
“We maintain an intensive dialogue with all the companies that we invest in. Also with Yamaha. Last year we had two extensive meetings with the company about its sustainability policy and we are due to have another meeting with them in Japan in the very near future.”
What is discussed during those meetings?
One of the topics that we discussed last year was how the company handles so-called conflict minerals. Conflict minerals are resources that are frequently used in electronics and are sourced from regions that are subject to armed conflict. Rebels and government troops use the proceeds from the mines to fund their fighting. Yamaha's products include keyboards and other electronic instruments. We want to be sure that they avoid using conflict minerals in those electronics. During our discussions it became clear that Yamaha has a very strict and rigid policy for preventing the use of minerals with dubious origins in their instruments.”
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Henk Jonker (1972) joined Triodos Investment Management as an investment analyst 18 months ago. He previously worked as fund manager for various other financial institutions. During this time, he was not only based in the Netherlands, but also spent several years working in London, Tokyo and Singapore. Henk Jonker: “My move to Triodos Investment Management was a very deliberate one. Here we invest as investing is intended: we select companies that really suit our agenda and aim to commit to them for several years.”