A letter from Catherine Howarth

2017 has been a big year for the movement for responsible investment. The letter below from our Chief Executive Catherine Howarth captures some of our biggest successes. We are very proud of these achievements, and want to take this moment to thank everyone who has contributed. This includes individual savers in our Pension Power network, institutional investors who support our campaigns, civil society organisations we partner with, policymakers who take forward our vision, journalists who help get our message out, and, of course, the individuals and foundations who support our work through generous donations and grants.

From everyone at ShareAction, thank you.

It’s been a big year for our movement. This update captures some of the highlights we’re feeling most proud of, reflecting ShareAction’s efforts to unlock the potential of shareholders (large and small) to have a positive influence on companies, as well as our campaigns to challenge and change the more damaging features of our investment system.

Unlocking the power of the investment system

Shifting companies to use 100% renewable power

Following our question at Tesco’s 2016 AGM when we proposed that the supermarket giant switch to using 100% renewable power in its worldwide operations, we were ecstatic when Tesco made a big announcement it would do just that in May this year. Tesco is one of the largest energy users in the FTSE 100. ShareAction has been co-ordinating shareholder engagement with some of the world’s biggest companies to urge them to use 100% renewable power. We’re working closely with allies on this, such as CDP, the Climate Group and We Mean Business. Our RE100 investor group has swelled through 2017 and now includes 51 investors in nine countries. Other major companies to make the same commitment in 2017, following our AGM questions and letters, include: Anheuser-Busch InBev (the world’s biggest brewer), Telefonica and Burberry. There are now over 100 RE100 companies. They are creating around 146 terawatt-hours (TWh) in demand for renewable electricity annually – about as much as it takes to power Poland.

Encouraging companies to pay all staff at least a real Living Wage

2017 was the sixth year that ShareAction posed questions at FTSE 100 AGMs in support of the real Living Wage. And yet again we achieved some great results. Ashtead, ConvaTec, Diageo, Informa, and Landsec all accredited as Living Wage employers this year following shareholder engagement by some of their largest institutional investors, co-ordinated by ShareAction. 33 of the FTSE 100 are now accredited. As a result, 15,000 employees have received a pay rise equating to a combined total of £60 million. Our fabulous long-term partnership with the Living Wage Foundation sees us mobilise powerful shareholders in support of the Living Wage, while our friends at the foundation take care of all the technicalities, as companies sign up and make the Living Wage leap. Once again, feedback from companies has been hugely positive. The CEO of Ashtead said this: “Why should we give our drivers, mechanics, guys who sweep the yard and wash the equipment much better pay? Because we are dependent on every single one of them doing relatively routine tasks on a very regular basis. There is no substitute to that.”

Investing in sustainable food systems around the world

We got a super-sized win in our sustainable food campaign with the FAIRR initiative. In August, McDonald’s announced it would end the use of critically important antibiotics from its global chicken supply chain, starting in January 2018. The decision followed pressure from major investors and pension savers, co-ordinated by ShareAction and FAIRR, and from campaigning NGOs and consumers. It’s a great win for human health, and the fight against rising antibiotics resistance; and is a step towards improved conditions for chickens living in tiny cages and inhumane conditions.

Shining a light on European banks’ management of climate risk

This year, ShareAction began a new programme of shareholder activism to push the largest banks in the world to swing their enormous power behind a speedy transition to a low-carbon economy. Just like major investors, banks are critical players in the fight against climate change. In addition to giving the issue profile at the AGMs of Europe’s major banks, ShareAction researched the climate performance of Europe’s largest 15 banks and published a ranking, five days before President Macron’s One Planet Summit. Our report got strong coverage in the Financial Times, City AM, and national Italian and French newspapers, and resulted in several of the banks committing to do better. Check out the press release by Spanish bank BBVA. There’s much more to do, but this high impact project is already making waves.

Using shareholder rights to highlight risks and opportunities with companies

The stories above capture just some of the amazing work undertaken this year at company AGMs. Empowering people to ask smart questions of corporate directors on issues that matter to them – and to get the answers they want – is central to ShareAction’s purpose. This year we ran six training events to help people build their skills for AGM activism. As a result, over 140 questions were asked at the AGMs of companies in nine countries. Many questions were on issues ShareAction is directly campaigning on but we helped lots of others too, like Swedish NGO, SwedWatch, who grilled British American Tobacco about child labour in its supply chain; UNLOCK, the NGO supporting ex-offenders, who asked a question at Royal Mail about recruitment policies; and Vodafone, who got a question from US-based NGO, Access Now, on internet shutdowns, which pose a growing threat to human rights in places where the internet is critical to civil society action and freedom of expression. ShareAction is immensely proud to support civil society organisations get heard by the people running the world’s most powerful companies.

Reforming the investment system

Publishing robust research on the investment industry

A vital part of ShareAction’s work is fighting to change the rules of the investment system. This begins with a rigorous programme of research to identify and highlight how the system operates today, and the ways in which the public interest and pension savers suffer as a consequence.

We were absolutely thrilled to announce in June that we were taking over the reins of the Asset Owners Disclosure Project, a global NGO which ranks how asset owners like pension funds are managing the risks of climate change. You can find out more about our plans for developing the impact of this initiative in 2018, here.

Working with policymakers and regulators who oversee the investment system

We’ve long campaigned for pension savers to have rights to information about where their money is invested. And this year the Department for Work and Pensions finally committed. In October, the Department announced plans for new regulations that’ll give UK savers new, and long overdue, information rights. Hurray!

Meanwhile, another historic ShareAction campaign finally achieved a major breakthrough. On 18th December, the DWP announced a proposal for new regulations that will require pension schemes to consider and respond to members’ ethical concerns and to evaluate the financial risks arising from environmental and social factors. After seven years of pressure to achieve a better statement of the law on investors’ fiduciary duties, it feels like Christmas has come early.

ShareAction’s research featured prominently in a highly influential report by the High Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, established late last year by the European Commission. We’re working with allies in civil society on an ambitious programme to influence the EU’s financial policy agenda, and all signs are that our arguments and evidence are making an impact.

Building the movement for responsible investment

Working with ordinary pension savers across the UK

ShareAction has invested heavily again this year in supporting pension savers to work together and have their voices heard by their pension schemes. One such group of savers is the UK’s MPs. For several years we’ve been supporting MPs to get answers and action from the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Scheme, and this year saw major progress in making it a sustainably run pension scheme. With help from ShareAction, MPs asked for details on how their scheme votes at company AGMs and this was published for the first time this year. The fund has now acknowledged that climate change is a serious risk to pension fund investments and has published its top holdings. All this helps greatly in making MPs understand the case for new laws that give every pension saver in the UK the same rights and opportunities.

Coordinating civil society organisations across Europe

Our European Responsible Investment Network is now made up of 36 organisations in 12 countries with a shared commitment to action that makes the global investment system safe and sustainable. We love working with colleagues and allies across Europe. We’re stronger together and learning so much from one another. You can see more about the work of ERIN here.

Convening networks of investors to support our aims

Equally our Charities Responsible Investment Network continues to grow in size and influence in its fifth year. It now comprises 25 charities committed to aligning their investments with their mission, following the addition this year of four new members – The Scott Trust, the Treebeard Trust, the John Ellerman Foundation, and Guys & St Thomas’ Charity.

The coalitions and alliances we’re building to make our movement stronger extend right into the heart of the investment system itself. In June, we announced the investor coalition backing ShareAction’s Workforce Disclosure Initiative. It’s a major new programme to mobilise investor support for excellent workforce practices in companies and their global supply chains. Over 90 investors from all corners of the globe with $8.6 trillion of investment assets have committed to this powerful new initiative. Watch this space for our first report on company performance in 2018.

It’s been a thoroughly action-packed, enjoyable year and it’s only whetted our appetite for more. We’re excited to be working with our many partners, allies and supporters around the world to make 2018 a year of even greater positive impact.

As ever, we’d love to hear from you about the work we’ve been doing, and if you’re ever near London Bridge, do come and say hello!

With very best wishes,

Catherine Howarth
Chief Executive, ShareAction

We rely on the support of individuals and charitable foundations to achieve our mission. 2017 was a big year and we have even bigger plans for 2018. Please consider supporting our work with a donation so we can create even more change. Whatever amount you can chip in will make a real difference to our movement. We’ve been amazed and inspired by people’s generosity this past year and we’re hoping that support will continue and grow next year.

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Thank you.

Colette St-Onge2017 Highlights