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Unlocking sustainable growth: A multidisciplinary approach

Research Analyst Suney Hindocha and Portfolio Manager Hamish Chamberlayne highlight the benefits of a multidisciplinary approach to investing, particularly in unlocking sustainable growth opportunities.

Suney Hindocha, CFA

Suney Hindocha, CFA

Research Analyst

Hamish Chamberlayne, CFA

Hamish Chamberlayne, CFA

Head of Global Sustainable Equities | Portfolio Manager

Mar 1, 2024
7 minute read

Key takeaways:

  • We believe a multidisciplinary mindset to sustainable equity investing, aligned with the thinking of the late Charlie Munger, is key to navigating cognitive biases and has the potential to achieve attractive investment outcomes.
  • The approach integrates rigorous sustainability research with traditional financial analysis and results in a differentiated universe of investable opportunities.
  • Uber, ASML, and CGI are companies that currently demonstrate potential for both growth and positive societal impact, in our view.

We are strong advocates of the thesis that there is a fundamental alignment between sustainable development, innovation, and growth. We also maintain that a multidisciplinary mindset that seeks to avoid cognitive biases is critical to any investment approach. In combination, these approaches have the power to identify companies that are firmly embedded within the framework of long-term secular trends driving towards a more sustainable world, as well as growing wealth over time.

The process should start with two simple questions:

-Is the world a better place because of this company?

-Can this company grow wealth over time?

When this is accompanied by a multidisciplinary approach, which marries the incorporation of rigorous sustainability analysis with traditional financial analysis, it facilitates the assessment of a company’s impact on the triple bottom line – planet, people, and profits.

The approach aligns with the thinking of the late Charlie Munger, former Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. Munger’s philosophy revolved around the idea of a multidisciplinary approach to life, which he credits for much of his success. In particular, he emphasised the importance of thinking beyond one’s own scope of expertise, drawing knowledge and wisdom from a wide range of fields, or taking “the big ideas” from all the different disciplines. In the same way, we believe in the importance of thinking broadly, rather than falling prey to the narrow compartmentalisation of ideas, which can limit investment success.

If you skillfully follow the multidisciplinary path, you will never wish to come back. It would be like cutting off your hands. –Charlie Munger, former Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway

In our view, the following three companies demonstrate this approach in action across different types of business models: ride hailing platform Uber, semiconductor microchip manufacturer ASML, and IT outsourcer CGI. Each shows the ability to propagate a more sustainable future and the potential to grow over time.

Network effects and winner-takes-most dynamics

Ride hailing platform Uber falls neatly into the theme of sustainable transport. The company’s platform drives higher utilisation of vehicles, thereby fuelling a circular economy dynamic, while its ride sharing products allow riders to reduce their travel costs. Independent research suggests that it also has a direct role in improving passenger safety by reducing drunk driving and alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the US.

With regards to its carbon footprint, Uber has committed to being a fully electric zero-emissions platform by 2030 in Canada, Europe, and the US, and by 2040, globally. The platform already has 74,000 monthly zero-emission vehicle drivers active on its app in the US, Canada, and Europe.

The company upholds a traditional network effects/winner-takes-most business model, where the returns profile can be considered convex; ie, once a certain ‘tipping point’ is crossed in scale/market share, the ensuing dominance of the platform paves the way for accelerated cash generation. Scale begets scale, as the flywheel effect is in motion when there are more riders on the platform because pick-up times are shorter, which is due to having more drivers, who are on the platform because there are more potential customers, and so the feedback loop continues.

Uber’s fixed cost base, which is largely comprised of central costs, doesn’t tend to increase proportionately as its top-line grows. As a result, the company has a hockey-stick-like cash generation profile, whereby very little incremental costs have to be deployed in order to propel the flywheel. The company is moving into a new harvesting phase now, having already established scale in its key markets.

Difficult-to-replicate competitive advantages

ASML is a global manufacturer of semiconductor microchip-making equipment. Its products enable the advancement of Moore’s Law towards ever smaller, cheaper, more powerful and energy efficient semiconductors which, in turn, results in increasingly powerful and capable electronics. ASML also plays a vital role in decarbonising the semiconductor industry – which has historically relied heavily on energy – having reduced energy use per exposed wafer pass by 37%, with goals to reduce this by 60% by 2025.

ASML has developed multiple layers of competitive advantages, the most significant of which is its technological leadership; the business invests heavily in research and development, and it is constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the field of lithography. For example, its patent-protected extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography is essential for the production of advanced microchips. Currently, ASML’s machines are the only ones capable of producing these advanced chips, giving the company a significant edge versus the competition and creating what some might consider to be a ‘one-horse race’ in the field of lithography.

Strong customer relationships are another key tenet to ASML’s success. Long-standing partnerships with some of the largest semiconductor manufacturers in the world – including Intel, Samsung, and TSMC – allow the company to tailor its products to meet its customer requirements. Some customers have even undertaken the costly endeavour of redesigning their fabs to make them suitable for EUV led by ASML.

Owing to its dominance in the market, ASML has achieved economies of scale that its competitors cannot match. This allows the company to produce its lithography machines at a lower cost than its competitors, which in turn allows it to offer more competitive pricing and making it unlikely to be displaced from its prime position in the foundry space.

Owner-operators with ‘soul in the game’

According to a study completed by Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management, founder-led companies in the S&P 500 tend to be more innovative. Such firms generate 31% more patents on average, and moreover, the patents they do tend to create are more valuable. Additional studies show that founder-led firms outperformed on crucial risk and return metrics, given that founders often see their companies as life-long projects and are more motivated to fight through any obstacles. Not only do they have ‘skin in the game’ but also ‘soul in the game.’

CGI is the world’s fifth-largest independent IT services and outsourcing provider. The company provides end-to-end digital transformation services and solutions to help clients design, implement, operate, and maintain the technology required for efficient business operations, ultimately leading to more streamlined customer outcomes. The company, of which the Chairman and founder owns c11% of shares outstanding, has a strong history of creating shareholder value.

CGI appears to benefit from its founder mentality, as it has remained attuned to the latest technological advancements and focused on developing and enriching its intellectual property platform, differentiating itself as a digital transformation provider. CGI also addresses its employees as “members”, which appears to instill a sense of accountability and ownership within the employee base by adding pride to performance.

Overall, we hold that an owner-operator business model can lead to a more robust governance structure that is truly aligned with shareholders – an element that we contend is imperative to the sustainability and ESG profile of a business, through its impact on influencing incentives to take a long-term view.


In our view, attractive results are only achieved through non-consensual thinking. Albert Einstein, an exemplar exponent of “out-of-the-box” thinking, once quipped: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

We believe a multidisciplinary approach that draws on various disciplines is instrumental in the collation of an investable universe of companies that is differentiated –  in particular, a multidisciplinary approach that is the amalgamation of insights arising from thinking deeply about sustainability with thorough diligence in conventional financial analysis.


S&P 500® Index reflects U.S. large-cap equity performance and represents broad U.S. equity market performance.

There is no assurance that the investment process will consistently lead to successful investing.

References made to individual securities do not constitute a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any security, investment strategy or market sector, and should not be assumed to be profitable. Janus Henderson Investors, its affiliated advisor, or its employees, may have a position in the securities mentioned.