Published 15 November 2021 by CMi2i Editorial Team
Eighteen months since the Covid-19 pandemic forced a series of European lockdowns, the 2021 AGM season was characterised by a second year of virtual meetings across the continent. Corporate issuers and investors have quickly and efficiently adapted to this “new normal” in order to limit the impact on shareholder participation at meetings.
This year, Environmental and Social (E&S) topics were at the forefront of shareholder engagements. For instance, investors and stakeholder scrutiny around the issues of climate change, human rights, diversity and political activity have significantly increased in the past few months.
With large institutional investors, such as BlackRock, making climate change central to their investment strategy, and the launch of the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative, Say-on-Climate proposals were the dominant environment-related issue of the 2021 Proxy Season. The world’s largest asset manager has recently announced it is “expanding the voting choice options” to allow big pension funds and other clients (i.e., those with 40% of $4.8tn in index equity assets) to directly vote on issues such as climate change. This new policy will also grant them access to third party proxy voting policies – a decision that is highly likely to have a significant impact on shareholder participation and voting.