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Largest managers not doing enough to support climate-related proposals, 50/50 Climate Project finds

Despite growing support for climate resolutions, most of the largest money managers aren't doing enough to support climate-related proposals, said a report issued Tuesday by the 50/50 Climate Project, a non-profit organization established to help institutional investors engage with corporate boards, in particular to respond to the challenges and opportunities related to climate change.

The report shows that eight of the 10 largest asset managers failed to support key climate votes more than half of the time in 2017. Meanwhile, roughly half of the largest managers opposed more than half of the key climate-related proposals in 2017. Several top managers — five are covered in detail in the report — voted against more than 85% of key climate proposals.

Four of the largest managers — BlackRock (BLK), Vanguard Group, J.P. Morgan Asset Management (JPM) and T. Rowe Price Group — indicate that climate or environmental issues positively influence their votes on these proposals, yet their voting records on 2-degree scenario proposals — based on the concept of limiting the average global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius — at well below 50% suggest otherwise, the report said.

A small number of the biggest managers had the ability to determine the outcome of almost all key climate-reporting proposals at energy and utility companies last year. If either of the top two asset managers — BlackRock and Vanguard — had voted yes on any of 10 or eight key climate proposals, respectively, those proposals would have received most of support, the report noted.

In terms of managers disclosing voting policies, the 50/50 Climate Project found that nine managers failed to disclose how climate risk or general environmental issues affect their voting in 2017. Meanwhile, several others did not disclose enough information about their policies and procedures for voting on climate-related and political spending proposals to make any kind of assessment.

In response to the report, Vanguard spokeswoman Laura R. Edling said in an email that "a vote against a shareholder proposal does not necessarily indicate we disagree with the broader issue. In some instances, shareholder proposals can make very specific asks and our vote demonstrates our efforts to avoid being overly prescriptive with portfolio companies."

The full report is available on the 50/50 Climate Project's website.