Responsible share ownership

By voting at and attending Annual General Meetings of shareholders (AGMs), we are able to challenge the companies we invest in to constantly improve their sustainability performance.

Proxy voting

As a responsible shareholder, Triodos Research votes at all AGMs for companies in which we hold shares via Triodos Sustainable Equity Fund, Triodos Sustainable Mixed Fund and Triodos Sustainable Pioneer Fund. Votes are cast on behalf of these funds.

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Proxy voting behaviour 2015

 

 

 

Number of meetings at which we voted

125

Number of agenda items we voted on

1,524

Number of agenda items we voted for management

893

Number of agenda items we voted against management

477

Number of agenda items we abstained on

154

 

 

Triodos Research obtains voting advice from PIRC Services, to which we apply our own voting guidelines before we vote. We did not follow PIRC’s standard voting recommendations in 7% of all agenda items. Proxy ballots are usually proposals from company management on issues of corporate governance, such as strategy, auditing, board composition and executive compensation. Shareholders can also make proposals at AGM’s. Triodos Research uses proxy voting to influence company behaviour, aiming to improve their environmental, social and governance performance.

All investee companies are informed by letter of our voting decisions in order to stimulate awareness of our vision and sustainable investment criteria, and to help the companies improve their sustainability performance. In 2015, we were able to inform most companies in advance about how we intended to vote at their AGM. Companies generally are more inclined to respond to our voting feedback prior to the meeting than afterwards, because they still have the opportunity to influence our voting behaviour. 26 companies replied to the feedback letter and in several cases this triggered an interesting debate. As a result of a discussion with Toyota Motor and Continental, we changed our vote on one of the resolutions. In the case of RELX (former Reed Elsevier), additional contact led to the company changing one of its agenda items.

In 2015, the fund voted on 52 shareholder resolutions. It voted in favour of 34 resolutions. For instance, Starbucks faced a shareholder resolution asking the company to establish a board committee on Sustainability, to review corporate policies and assess the company’s response to changing conditions and knowledge of the natural environment. At the meeting of eBay, the fund supported a shareholder resolution requesting the company to report on the pay gap between male and female employees, policies to improve performance and quantitative reduction targets. At the meeting of Chipotle a shareholder resolution was brought forward requesting the company to publish a sustainability report. Unfortunately none of these shareholder resolutions attracted sufficient support to pass at the meeting.

At the meeting of Time Warner, the fund supported a shareholder resolution requesting the company to adopt a target for reducing absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and issue a report on its plan to achieve these goals. On September 15, the company announced a new two-year goal to reduce carbon intensity by 30% by 2016 year end.

Annual General Meetings

As an active shareholder, Triodos Research attends annual general meetings (AGMs) to raise questions and encourage continuous improvement in sustainability performance. Whilst the companies we invest in are already top corporate responsibility performers, we aim to challenge them to further improve their sustainability performance in such a way that it benefits not only shareholders, but all stakeholders.

Triodos Research attended the shareholder meetings of publishing company RELX and food company Wessanen. Also on behalf of three other investors, we raised concerns about the remuneration policy at RELX. We also advised the company to publish an integrated report and we raised questions about the company’s incident rate and its supplier database. The company replied on remuneration that a new remuneration policy will be discussed soon with stakeholders. At the meeting of Wessanen we addressed the company’s corporate strategy and its remuneration policy. As sustainable investor we highly appreciate Wessanen’s current vision and adopted strategy, to become a leader in healthy and sustainable food. However, in the past, the company has changed its strategy several times in response to changing circumstances. The company confirmed that this strategy is a well-founded decision and that it is set for the long-term.

If we share their concerns, we often cooperate with other (institutional) investors. At the meeting of DSM questions were raised also on our behalf by Robeco on strategy, remuneration, the use of renewable energy and auditor independence.

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