By Michael Kind, Shareholder Activism Coordinator
Two weeks ago ShareAction staff, supporters, and others in our movement got together to celebrate another great year of using the investment system as a force for good at our annual summer party. You can check out the photos from the party here.
On an appropriately sunny evening in Shoreditch we shared food, drink and conversation, toasting some of our successes throughout the year. From getting over 3,000 savers to fill in a government survey on how we want our money invested and launching the second year of the Workforce Disclosure Initiative (WDI), to publishing rankings of pension providers and asset owners and taking a resolution to the Shell AGM, it’s been a big year. And this alongside all our ongoing campaigning around ESG issues.
The summer party is also an opportunity to reward those who have been particularly wonderful and helpful supporters of our work throughout the year, and the annual awards ceremony is a definite highlight of the party. Here’s a quick run through of our winners this year.
Golden boot for most AGMs attended: Tom Schuller
Feeling the post-World Cup blues we felt a themed award would be appropriate. And given Harry Kane’s prolific exploits in Russia we awarded Tom Schuller his very own golden boot trophy for attending the most AGMs this season. Tom authored a book on the gender pay gap called ‘The Paula Principle,’ and went along to a series of AGMs including many asset management companies to quiz them on their gender pay gap.
Pension Power lifetime achievement: Ian Brindley
Ian is one of ShareAction’s biggest supporters. Alongside going to numnerous AGMs and telling me at the party that he’s been trying to convince his colleagues to become AGM activists, he’s been an active member of our Pension Power network for years. Believing in the power of pensions and wanting to make a change he tried for four years to become a trustee of the Environment Agency Pension Fund, and upon doing so helped craft a game-changing climate policy.
To honour his lifetime commitment to pensions we provided him with a retirement survival kit containing ales, chocolate and more…
Undercover AGM vlogger: Sandy Paul
Something we’ve tried for the first time at AGMs this year is vlogging: short videos at AGMs to highlight what we’re asking and where in real time to better engage followers online. Most AGM activists made their vlogs outside the AGM venue, but one activist took a step further, filming a vlog – not once but twice – inside the AGM venue itself, giving our Twitter followers a rare look at the inside of an AGM venue.
To help her pursue future undercover AGM activism, we awarded Sandy a disposable camera.
WDI transparency champions: Claire Gavini and Katharina Lindmeier
The WDI is one of the biggest and most ambitious projects we’ve undertaken. It’s no easy feat trying to get 500 companies to provide us with the data that will help standardise reporting on workplace issues. So our investor coalition is hugely important in encouraging companies to take action. And two of the individuals in that coalition, Claire and Katharina, have been instrumental in championing and shaping the project.
We presented them with magnifying glasses to help them keep a close eye on employers around the world.
Best Pension Power team: TfL Pension Power
Over the last couple of years, savers from TfL have persuaded the scheme to examine the carbon exposure of the scheme and the scheme now have a dedicated webpage explaining how the scheme is responsibly invested. Not satisfied yet, they’ve been pushing for the scheme to increase its investments in renewables, have a louder voice when it comes to gender diversity, and have less of their money supporting fossil fuels.
To aid this fight, one member has even managed to get on to one of TfL’s pension committees to get closer to those decision-makers. We gave them an RI themed tube map with stations such as B-RI-xton, Social Bond Street and Reforest Hill as their prize.
Lateral AGM thinking: Lianna Etkind
Alongside attending AGMs ourselves to ask questions on our own campaigns, we’re keen to support other organisations and individuals to practise their own AGM activism as it helps to build our movement. Lianna is a brilliant example of someone recognising the effectiveness of it as a tactic, going out of her way to champion it among disability rights activists. This all culminated in an excellent training session she helped orchestrate.
To help her identify more avenues for her and others’ activism we gave her a notebook so she’s always got somewhere to jot down ideas!
Ambitious and impactful stewardship: Adam Matthews
You often see familiar faces at AGMs, and we’ve noticed a particular one pop up at high-carbon company AGMs this season. Adam Matthews, Director of Ethics and Engagement at the Church of England Pensions Board, has been leading the way this year on challenging oil, gas and mining companies to take the necessary action to align themselves with the Paris agreement, such as stopping their trade associations from lobbying for a world that isn’t in line with it.
We awarded him with a torch to help him keep lighting the way and as recognition of his actions as a beacon of hope for those who believe in the untapped power of the investment industry (there were more puns on the night…)
Time-travelling ShareAction: Emily Dawson
We’re lucky to have worked with a range of brilliant designers this year so choosing one for an award was no easy task. However, there is one report we publish that is fundamental to our work: our ranking of auto-enrolment pension providers. And the difference between its last iteration and this year’s in design terms is huge – we feel like we’ve been well and truly taken into the 21st century, and gave Emily a suitably time-travel-themed gift in the form of a TARDIS key-ring.
Long-standing support to ShareAction: Charles Scanlon
Without the support of some of the people in our movement we really would struggle, and Charles is certainly one of these. For over 13 years he has helped our policy team by sharing his technical legal expertise and his insight into how to democratise the pensions system, one law at a time. Charles has helped us develop our positions on complex and important issues like fiduciary duty. To thank him for his continued support, patience and his time he received a chocolate clock.
Thanks to all for coming along and for your help this year. We’re excited to get together and celebrate the coming years’ successes already!