Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted most sectors and companies, causing market uncertainty and a sharp decline in economic activity, the need to act for a more sustainable future is even more urgent. As the 2020 AGM season comes to a close, BNP Paribas Asset Management (‘BNPP AM’) confirms its commitment to sustainability in line with its Governance and Voting Policy.
Although the current circumstances have meant that the majority of Annual General Meetings are being held behind closed doors without the physical presence of shareholders, companies have adapted the way in which shareholders can best exercise their rights. Some are using digital solutions to complete proceedings; others are accepting written questions or shareholder votes on proposed resolutions.
However, despite the change to the way in which AGMs are being conducted, there has been no change to the way in which BNPP AM, as an active shareholder, has analysed, voted and engaged in AGMs this year. We continue to vote in favour of sustainability-related actions, in particular those designed to combat climate change or accelerate the energy transition, or relating to equality and gender diversity at board level.
BNPP AM also believes that companies should employ responsible capital allocation - even more so in light of the Covid-19 pandemic - that does not comprise long-term corporate strategy and takes account of the social imbalances resulting from the crisis. We recommend that companies explicitly disclose how the impact of the coronavirus is taken into account and the impact on its capital allocation.
This year sees a continuation of the way in which we voted in 2019, including:
- opposing 34% of management proposals compared to 27.8% in 2019, mainly focused on executive compensation (60% opposed), financial operations (46%) and board election (37%);
- integrating climate change into our voting policy and engagement in 2019 – we supported 93% of shareholder proposals on climate change, filed four shareholder proposals on climate lobbying (Chevron, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Exxon Mobil) and opposed 355 resolutions due to climate change considerations; and
- voting against the entire board in instances where there was no female board member in 2019 - this year we have set a minimum level of 30% female board representation for North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Helena Viñes Fiestas, Global Head of Stewardship & Policy at BNP Paribas Asset Management, comments:
“As we face a more volatile future, we need more governance not less. The way in which companies manage systemic risks and build resilience becomes critical to ensure long-term returns. This AGM season more than ever it is key that companies get the support they need from shareholders to build resilience and sustainable recovery plans, and our role as an active shareholder is to support them in their efforts to do so.”
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Deputy Global Head of Sustainability
Helena joined BNPP AM in 2011 and has sixteen years’ experience of working in responsible business and sustainable investment. She leads research, policy and stewardship...