‘A Wild Season’ — Surge in Support On Tap for E+S

As large investors begin publishing their updated proxy voting policies for the 2021 proxy season, all eyes are on the shifting environmental and social (E+S) landscape. After years of vocal support and a lack of vote support, some large institutions appear poised to change tactics. 26 February 2021 ‘A Wild Season’ — Surge in Support On Tap for E+S

Lindsay Frost of Financial Times’s Agenda writes that boards may be up for a potential upset in shareholder proposals this year. Complicating matters somewhat is the fact that most investment firms have not published 2021 proxy voting guidelines yet, but 2020 policies, as well as some stand-alone papers on various firms’ views on diversity and climate change, can give boards an indication of how these investors view voting for or against certain E+S proposals.

Indeed, according to a forthcoming study from advisory firm SquareWell Partners, 47 of the 50 largest asset managers in the world publish voting policies, but only 32 incorporate E+S issues into these policies.

“We find that it’s important to evaluate every shareholder proposal individually … because no one shareholder proposal is the same,” a spokesperson for Vanguard commented to the Agenda. “Proposals can change each year, and so can a company’s strategy or practices. The governance landscape is not stagnant.”
State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) will release its 2021 proxy voting guidelines in the coming weeks, says Ben Colton, global co-head of asset stewardship at SSGA. The firm’s funds are expected, similarly, to increase their support for ESG-related proposals and actions.
SSGA’s funds supported 44.8% of environmental proposals and 25.9% of social proposals last year, according to Insightia.

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