ShareAction also found that members of the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative and investor-led Climate Action 100+ failed to back a third of climate resolutions on average.
The London-based organization's fourth Voting Matters report looked at how 68 of the world's largest asset managers voted on 252 shareholder resolutions.
While it found an overall increase in support for resolutions on environmental and social resolutions, 66% in 2022 up from 60% in 2021, the increased support came from Europe, not the U.S. or U.K.
"There is a clear regional divide in asset manager voting behaviour," the report said, with European asset managers backing on average 81% of proposals in 2022, up from 69% in 2021, while U.S. and U.K. asset managers on average backed 1% more than they did the previous year. The report noted that stronger ESG reporting rules in the European Union came into effect in September, requiring asset managers to report on their shareholder engagement strategies. Another factor is the "widening gap" in client expectations on climate between Europe and the U.S., the report said.
The report takes note of several trends in 2022, including "the high-profile ESG backlash taking place in the U.S." and more resolutions going beyond requests for disclosure to asking companies how they are addressing the energy transition.
In the energy sector, companies saw much less shareholder support for environmental resolutions in 2022, a year marked by energy supply and price tensions that produced record profits for the companies, the report noted.
"Most of the world's largest asset managers are not consistently using their voting rights to address the multiple environmental and social crises the world is facing," said Claudia Gray, head of financial sector research at ShareAction, in a news release about the report.
Ms. Gray called for asset managers to strengthen their voting policies and to publicly explain when they do not support such resolutions, and for policymakers to hold asset managers accountable when their voting track record "is at odds with their sustainability claims."