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Barron's: ESG Investor Helped Drive Walmart Gun Decision

A report in Barron’s Sept. 9 edition, “How Investors Helped Curb Walmart Gun Sales,” asserts that a letter by leading Environmental, Social, and Governance investor John Streur, an “ESG titan” who runs Calvert Research & Management, the Responsible investing unit of Eaton Vance, helped convince Walmart it was time to take a firmer stance on gun sales. 
 
According to this Barron’s report, John Streur wrote to the retailer’s chairman, Gregory Penner, that restricting gun sales would be consistent with Walmart’s growing commitment to ESG practices and could even help boost its stock price. Streur, himself a gun owner with a ranch on which employees can hunt, believes guns should be regulated. Shortly after, Walmart announced that it would stop selling assault rifle bullets and would ask customers to conceal weapons while shopping, even in states that allow open carry. The company also reportedly will share its technology for managing the sale of guns with other retailers. 
 
Leslie P. Norton, the author of the Barron’s article, also reports that “attitudes toward responsible investing have similarly flipped in some corners, and that sustainable funds have attracted nearly $9 billion in new cash so far for this year, against $5.5 for all of last year.” Calvert’s own funds have generally performed at the top of their categories and enjoyed healthy net inflows of investment money. While Norton quotes Streur as congratulating the Business Roundtable for its pledge to serve all stakeholders—customers, employees, suppliers, communities, etc.---she says he believes the pledge lacks specifics or timetable and retains a wait-and-see attitude.
 
Assuming Norton’s reporting is true, this marks the growing influence of ESG in general governance issues, which likely will help hold the Business Roundtable’s feet to the fire in terms of living up to the pledges in its new charter


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