2017 Proxy Season: Climate Risk and Gender Equity Gain Attention

By Eve Tahmincioglu

Shareholder proposals this year include a growing emphasis on environmental sustainability, particularly climate risk, and gender pay equity and board diversity.

EY Center for Board Matters 2017 proxy season review found climate and gender equity were two quickly emerging proposals, among typical themes such as proxy access, lobbying and board chair independence.

“We see gender pay equity as an important topic for boards,” says Jaime Smith, associate director of the Center.

“Leading boards are paying attention to how organizations incentivize and support the companies' culture and value. And it’s coming up more and more on investors’ screens.”

As for climate change, she continues, “We’ve seen ground-breaking support in that space.”

She points to three proposals that got majority support, exceeding 60%, for the first time, including two proposals at energy companies.

“For the past few years, large asset managers like BlackRock and Vanguard have been vocal on environmental risk, and the stewardship and investment considerations,” she explains. They are doing this on their own, and also getting pushed by their clients to do so, she says, adding that mainstream investors are demonstrating an increased willingness to hold companies to account realizing environmental risks can have an impact on long term value.