Climate: US asset managers lag behind Europeans

The UK NGO ShareAction has broken down the votes of the top fund managers at a shareholders' meeting: BlackRock, Vanguard, JP Morgan and Fidelity often block climate change resolutions. Conversely, European asset managers, including Axa IM, are the most active and pro-climate.

Virtually all asset managers, including the world's largest, boast of being responsible, climate-sensitive investors and applying environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria to their management. . But do acts accord with speeches? The UK NGO ShareAction has reviewed the votes in the general meeting of major managers: it is clear from this report published this Monday, November 4 that the US giants, such as leaders of passive management BlackRock and Vanguard, JP Morgan and other Fidelity , trust the top 10 investors least supporting resolutions on climate change and filed by civil society.

Results deemed " very worrying " by the NGO, while the 20 largest US funds weigh about 35% of assets under management in the world. Their vote often amounts to blocking the resolution.

In contrast, the most active climate managers in terms of voting are almost all European, Swiss UBS AM and German Allianz GI in the lead, ahead of British Aviva, HSBC, Legal & General and French Axa IM They provided support in about 80% to 90% of the cases, out of 65 resolutions related to climate reporting, lobbying activities or setting targets aligned with the Paris Agreement. The French giant Amundi (subsidiary of Crédit Agricole), the ninth largest asset manager in the world in terms of assets under management, is one step below, at 65.57%.

"You can not brag in public to be alert to the climate and oppose you in the private objectives in. Ultimately, these investors will be judged on their vote, the most powerful tool they have. They have the power to curb the climate emergency, but they are on autopilot, "says Jeanne Martin, campaign manager at ShareAction and author of the report.

Managers too "passive" in AG

The non-profit organization points out, for example, that  US asset manager Northern Trust " voted for three consecutive years against a motion to open up Ford's climate lobbying activities " and against all climate-related resolutions at ExxonMobil. . On the other hand, it welcomes the " success of a  group of progressive investors who wanted to vote for climate governance resolutions at ExxonMobil, " citing  BMO, BNP Paribas AM, the German DWS, even though these motions actually been rejected by AG shareholders.

" Passive investors [index-trackers, with trackers replicating indices, ed] have for too long been passive managers of capital," commented the manager of the Merseyside UK pension fund, Owen Thorne.  " Asset owners  like us are increasingly unhappy with how large index funds are voting on climate change resolutions."

The top student in the rankings, UBS Asset Management, says it has strengthened its " commitment to business in the last 18 months to drive positive change towards a low-carbon economy ."

" We expect companies to have a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, clearly define their objectives and report on their progress, and our voting history reflects this." Voting is an important part of our fiduciary duty to customers and is an integral part of the investment process and our approach to global stewardship, "says Michael Baldinger, head of sustainable and impact investing at UBS, quoted in ShareAction's press release.

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