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Screening ESG Risks in Autonomous Robotics Investments

September 8, 2021
The dominant trend in improving the efficiency and profitability of the logistics and supply chain industry will continue to be achieved through automation. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues can be important considerations for investments in this sector due to potential reputational risks for the acquiring entity. Key issues include negative publicity surrounding the perception of job elimination, as well as the procurement of specialty materials required to produce batteries and other components of autonomous robots. The recycling or responsible disposal at the end of the life of the product is also a key focus especially in Europe.
TRC was asked to provide ESG risk screening for a foreign auto manufacturer’s investment in a U.S.-based autonomous robotics company. A two-step approach was taken to access the risks associated with this target. The first step evaluated the inherent risks of the target company’s sector based on its geographical spread and operations using public information like the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the CDC Investment Works Toolkit. The second step involved deeper analysis of ESG risk assessments & insights based on a review of specific controls that the company uses to manage its risks. This included a questionnaire, reviewing company documents and programs, and interviewing company representatives.
Given limited information from the target company and its sourcing of robot components, TRC employed the following approach for ESG due diligence:
  • Supply Chain ESG Review: several key suppliers from the target had public disclosure available which were reviewed to assess especially E and S risks.
  • Reverse engineer material ESG risks from the disclosure of the acquirer’s Sustainability Report which highlighted commitment to lowering GHG footprint, producing eco-friendly products, and creating social value.
  • Apply information from the EHS due diligence to assess climate risks to physical facilities, waste generation/disposal, and regulatory compliance and safety issues/programs.
Key topics reviewed during the ESG screen included:
  • General awareness and engagement of the company in evaluating and managing ESG risks
  • Energy, carbon, and climate risks
  • Water use and conservation risks
  • Waste and recycling risks
  • Customer and supplier risks
  • Safety risks
  • Pandemic preparedness risks
  • Social and governance risks
TRC’s ESG screen proved valuable to legal counsel and the acquiring entity by determining that no major “red flag” issues were identified. It also provided focus for post-acquisition management of ESG risk, including increased monitoring of the labor fairness, ethics, and conflict minerals practices of off-shore suppliers of robot and battery components.
In summary, coupling ESG screening with traditional EHS due diligence is an efficient means to assess a broader array of risks and opportunities that may be relevant to certain investments. It is especially useful when the target’s reputation and public perceptions are important to its current and future value.
How can TRC Help?
TRC Companies, Inc. has an experienced team that can help improve the efficiency and profitability of your logistics and supply chain, or help with the development of new or repurposed property through integrated engineering and environmental advisory services that includes expertise to guide and support key EHS (Environmental Health and Safety) and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) issues for consideration as we work together to provide solutions for your supply chain needs. To learn more: Reshoring Environmental Solutions to Support Supply Chain and Logistical Optimization
Or contact Daniel Weed at or Dale Allison at
Sean Learmonth

Sean Learmonth is an Associate Director in TRCs ESG Advisory Services group that provides services to both corporate and financial services clients. He has experience carrying out ESG and environmental due diligence for corporate and private equity clients globally. Contact Sean at

Donald Fay

Donald Fay is a Professional Geologist in several states and a Certified Professional under Ohio’s Voluntary Action Program (VAP). He has over 30 years’ experience advising legal, municipal, and industrial clients on transactional due diligence, site investigation/remediation for brownfield and enforcement projects, and expert testimony/litigation support. Don is very experienced at coupling site redevelopment with remediation needs to minimize project costs and expedite schedules and has helped secure millions of dollars of grants for brownfield redevelopments. He manages TRC’s environmental investigation and remediation staff in Ohio and Indiana. Don holds B.A. and M.S degrees in geology.

Gary Low

Gary Low is the Director of ESG Advisory on the TAS team. Mr Low was recently a Consultant for the United Nations as part of the Global Investors for Sustainable Development initiative where he collaborates with various UN agencies (GRI, PRI, IFC) and the private sector (Nuveen, UBS) on ESG data analytics and Sustainable Investing. Mr Low has over 19 years of investment experience from asset management firms such as BlackRock, Vontobel, Epoch Investment Partners and Macquarie Investments. At Epoch Investment Partners, Gary was responsible for ESG Integration for the Calpers and Wespath mandates. Prior to his career in the investment management industry, Gary was with the Investment Banking Division of Credit Suisse.

Gary holds an MBA from The Wharton School and MA Hons from Cambridge University. Mr Low is a CFA charter holder and recently received his Fundamentals of Sustainability Accounting credential from SASB.

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