A Nest guide to AGMs
Annual General Meeting (AGM) season is already upon us and with votes coming thick and fast, it’s a hugely important time of the year for active shareholders like Nest. But what exactly is discussed at these meetings and why are they so important?
What is voting season?
Every year, companies will hold AGMs where all shareholders are invited to have their say on things like the annual report and accounts for the past year, as well as future strategic plans for the year ahead. It’s a chance to look forward and ensure that everyone is onboard with the company’s proposed direction.
Why we think they’re important
AGMs offer a unique opportunity for investors to have a say in how companies are run. We believe that making use of our vote is an essential part of stewardship and that it’s our responsibility to ensure the companies we invest in are sustainable and profitable. One of the best ways to bring about change is by having a seat at the table and using our voice.
What can we do at an AGM?
There are two key actions that shareholders can take at an AGM:
Vote: All shareholders are entitled to a vote on each proposal put forward by the company, as well as resolutions that are filed by shareholders. We get a say on a wide range of topics from routine votes on director elections and pay and audit through to the less common votes like company mergers and acquisitions and climate change roadmaps and emissions targets. The results of the vote are usually a good indicator on shareholder satisfaction but, for Nest, it’s about ensuring the companies are aligned to our responsible investment objectives and they’re instilling practices that will mean they’re more likely to be fit for the future.
Question the board of directors: Shareholders also have the opportunity to submit questions at AGM’s. Sometimes investor engagement groups that we are a part of, like ShareAction, will submit questions on behalf of the group, with recent examples including questions at Barclays and BNP Paribas on their continual investment in oil and gas.
Our recent activity
In 2023 so far, we’ve been focusing on areas including pay, climate change, natural capital and diversity in the workplace.
Oil & Gas
We’ve already used our votes to raise concerns at a number of meetings: we publicly voted against the re-election of the BP chair, along with almost 10% of their shareholders: signalling a clear sign of no confidence. This came after shareholders were not given a chance to vote on the rolled back emissions targets that were announced by BP. We also voiced similar opposition at Shell’s recent AGM, as we are concerned that both companies are transitioning too slowly towards net zero emissions.
We’ve also voted in favour of shareholder resolutions at some of the big US banks, including Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America – we wanted to highlight that we want greater clarity on fossil fuel investing phase outs.
Diversity in the workplace is also an important topic for Nest and we’ve challenged big names in recent years where we’ve seen a lack of diversity including Lloyds Banking Group and IAG. We believe promoting diversity of gender, ethnicity and thought can improve company performance and reputation as well as enhancing socio-economic conditions for many people. We’ve called for increased board minimum requirements for gender diversity to 30% in US companies as well as a requirement for at least one board member from an ethnically diverse background for companies in the S&P 500 and the FTSE 100.
Over the past few years, we’ve written letters to several companies, explaining our voting decision and areas of concern. One of the key topics was remuneration of board composition which included Vodafone, Ocado and General Motors. In all three cases, we wanted to see remuneration align with shareholder interests.
As the need for greater transparency from investors grows, we’ll be making sure we play our part by voting in line with our values and beliefs and continuing to make our voting records publicly available.
You can find summaries of how we voted here: How we’ve voted | Nest Pensions