Global asset managers wield sizeable influence on environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices at investee companies because they are often among the largest shareholders in given companies. This brief analyzes how ten of the world’s largest asset managers voted on 13 resolutions that related to upholding fundamental labour rights during annual general meetings (AGMs) in 2023.
Some top-level highlights from the brief:
- The world’s top five asset managers (BlackRock, Vanguard, Fidelity Investments, SSGA, and J.P. Morgan Asset Management), all headquartered in the U.S., showed low support for proxy votes related to fundamental labour rights; conversely, their non-U.S. counterparts (Amundi, LGIM, UBS Asset Management, DWS Group, SUMI Trust) voted in support of the proxy votes most of the time.
- ESG stewardship teams within asset management firms are influential in steering the voting practices of those firms, as split voting — where portfolio managers of specific funds within an asset management firm vote differently on a given AGM ballot item — was only observed at one out of the ten managers analyzed (J.P. Morgan Asset Management).
- Uneven shareholder engagement escalation pathways were observed, as two of the seven asset managers (BlackRock and J.P. Morgan AM) that disclosed that they engaged with Amazon.com on social issues since January 2022 did not vote for this year’s freedom of association resolution at Amazon.com. This can send mixed messages to companies on fundamental labour rights.
- Only three of the ten asset managers analyzed (BlackRock, LGIM, and UBS Asset Management) publicly disclosed their proxy voting rationale — an important data point for clients to understand the signals being sent to companies by firms that manage their capital, and for companies to process shareholder expectations.
How asset owners (staff and/or trustees) can use this report:
- Identify whether your fund uses any of the asset managers listed in this report and whether it has any priority shareholder engagements with the companies listed.
- Write to your client relationship manager and to the head of ESG stewardship at the asset managers you use, indicate whether they voted contrary to any of your shareholder engagement priorities (if applicable), and ask that they review the report and respond to the key findings.