Saturday, June 27, 2015

Red Line Voting gets Green light to Save Planet, Respect Human Rights and Stop Fat Cats


I was really pleased to take part in the debate and vote in favour of the AMNT's Red Lines initiative which was approved at our summer conference on Wednesday this week. They cover a wide range of environmental, social and corporate governance issues.

Red Line Voting empowers pension trustees to make responsible investing a reality and will direct fund managers to oppose poor governance practise in companies where failure poses a risk to its shareholders.

Trustees bodies will be able to instruct fund managers to follow all Red Lines en bloc or a sub section.  It should not cost the scheme for doing so. Fund managers will have to comply with these instructions or explain why not and then run the risk of being sacked by trustees.

On environmental Red Lines the AMNT  worked with Carbon Disclosure Project and will be urging pension schemes to adopt them as they believe it would take climate change up the UK corporate agenda.

On social issues the Red Lines include trade union recognition, race equality, gender equality, commitment to equality monitoring and publishing the data, that companies should have a plan to introduce the Living Wage, and get rid of zero hours contracts.

On governance there will be a vote against the remuneration policy if any director is paid more than 100 times the average pay in that company’s UK workforce. Also on governance companies should have a tax policy stating what their tax practises are.

The AMNT are now planning to launch Red Line Voting in Autumn, in time for the 2016 voting season. They have have worked closely with UKSIF on the development of these Red Lines and major fund managers are already preparing to implement Red Line Voting instructions.

The big campaign now is to persuade pension schemes to adopt Red Line Voting, particularly those in pooled funds. Up to now investors in pooled funds were in practise unable to direct the engagement and voting on the shares associated with their investments. Red Line Voting gets round this. Fund managers may receive dozens of Red Line Voting instructions, but they are all the same instructions so they can then allocate votes pro rata. Since more than £2-trillion of assets under management in the UK are in pooled funds this could have a significant impact.

The AMNT has been granted £75,000 by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable trust over two years to develop and launch this initiative.

Red Line Voting is a revolutionary concept. I agree with "Responsible Investment" magazine that this is "a major evolution in UK Pension funds" but think "Engaged Investor" got it right when they called it "Power to the People: the new power for trustees to control fat cat behaviour".

Many people have been involved in the AMNT project on Red Lines but special mention to its Co Chair Janice Turner, who thought it up and was the driving force behind it and Co Chair, Barry Parr and Committee member, Bill Trythall. 
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