Sustainable Investing: Example of Shareholder Engagement Promoting Gender Diversity And Inclusion
Impax Asset Management’s shareholder engagement with T. Mobile promoted diversity and inclusion for women and minorities at the board level and company wide. T. Mobile amended director selection guidelines to include women and minorities due to dialogue with Impax over several years.
We let [T. Mobile] know we believe diversity, inclusive of gender and race, is a critical attribute of a well-functioning board and a measure of sound corporate governance
Case Study: T. Mobile shareholder engagement by asset manager promoting diversity/inclusion
Strategy Approach: Engagement
Asset Manager: Impax Asset Managemnt
Security Type: Stock
In 2015, Impax Asset Management’s (Impax) sustainability team found in reviewing global communication company T-Mobile’s proxy statement that its board included only one woman. Digging a bit deeper, the team discovered that the company had no formal board diversity policy.
Asset Manager Involvement
Impax, via the Pax World Large Cap mutual fund (PXLIX), is a shareholder of T. Mobile. Impax votes against nominating committee members on boards with fewer than three women. Impax cast a ‘no’ ballot and wrote to T-Mobile’s Investor Relations team to explain why T-Mobile’s board gender diversity and disclosure was concerning.
“We let them know we believe diversity, inclusive of gender and race, is a critical attribute of a well-functioning board and a measure of sound corporate governance,” Impax Lead Sustainability Analyst Heather Smith noted. “And there’s a lot of research that backs that up, that shows diversity on corporate boards leads to improved company financial performance, increased innovation, better problem solving and many other benefits.”
At the time, T-Mobile conveyed its commitment to board diversity and shared Impax’s concerns with its board of directors. Satisfied with the positive conversation, Impax made a note to monitor the company’s progress.
Fast forward to 2018: Noting that neither the level of gender diversity on the company’s board nor the board diversity disclosure in the company’s proxy had changed meaningfully, the sustainability team added Impax as a signatory to a letter the Thirty Percent Coalition sent to T. Mobile discussing the many business benefits associated with board gender diversity.
In 2019, Impax followed up again, this time with a more formal shareholder proposal that asked T-Mobile to prepare a report about steps it was taking to foster greater diversity on the board. The proposal asked the company to embed a commitment to diversity in its governance documents, to commit publicly to including women and people of color in each candidate pool for senior positions and board seats, and to disclose the racial, ethnic and gender composition of the board in annual proxy statements.
T-Mobile responded immediately to the shareholder proposal, arranging a dialogue with members of management as well as Theresa Taylor, Chair of the board’s nominating committee. Recognizing that its public disclosure did not reflect its practices, the company published on its website its Director Selection Guidelines, which commit T-Mobile to include women and minority candidates in the pool from which the nominating committee selects director candidates.
Notably, the dialogue expanded to include a discussion of broader diversity and inclusion efforts across T-Mobile. In early 2020, Impax withdrew its proposal based on the company’s commitment to provide more comprehensive diversity disclosure — encompassing both the board and broader workforce — in its 2020 proxy statement.
Sustainable investing approaches (Aligning, Integrating, Engaging)
Aligning a client’s values with their investments to minimize exposure to companies or industries whose business practices conflict with their personal convictions.
Integrating ESG factors into investment decisions to identify and emphasize investments in companies or industries with positive ESG practices or that solve specific ESG challenges; and to limit exposure to those with poor ESG performance.
Engaging with portfolio companies and fund managers to encourage improvements in ESG performance and mitigate risks related to ESG, and improve financial systems.
For many of today’s investors, the way they invest matters. Sustainable investing is a force for that positive change.
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