The British Columbia Government and Services Employees’ Union (BCGEU) issued a press release on April 20 to announce its partnership with the global advocacy group SumOfUs (Fighting for people over profits). Over the summer, on behalf of BCGEU, SumOfUs will file proposals at annual general meetings of Canadian companies, calling for greater fairness in corporate governance and increased scrutiny around human rights and labour practices as well as of the impacts of deforestation.
BCGEU President Stephanie Smith stated “As a union, we need to make sure that funds our members count on, such as the strike fund, are financially healthy and this requires careful and responsible investment decisions. …Calling for greater corporate responsibility as a shareholder is not only financially prudent, but it allows us to pursue our values as a labour union as well.” This is not the first time BCGEU has taken initiative – in 2014, the union divested its strike fund and general reserves from fossil fuel equities, and saw in increase in values.
With a similar strategy, the Fonds de Solidarité des Travailleurs du Québec (FTQ), empowered SHARE (Shareholder Association for Research and Education), to file a shareholder proposal at the April 27 annual meeting of Imperial Oil, requesting better disclosure on its exposure to and management of water-related risks in its oil and gas operations.
Even Canada’s financial regulators are moving in the direction of increased transparency and disclosure for corporations. The Canadian Securities Administration, concluding a process which had stretched out for over a year, issued a press release on April 5, announcing CSA Staff Notice 51-354 Report on Climate change-related Disclosure Project. The report announced its intention to consider new disclosure requirements relating to material risks and opportunities and “how issuers oversee the identification, assessment and management of material risks. This would include, for example, emerging or evolving risks and opportunities arising from climate change, potential barriers to free trade, cyber security and disruptive technologies.”
And on April 12, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change announced the creation of an Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance. Part of the mandate of the Expert Panel will be to explore the issue of voluntary standards for corporate disclosure of the financial risks associated with climate change, and to provide recommendations to the federal government by the fall of 2018. Full Terms of Reference are here . The Expert Panel is expected to build upon the work of the CSA Task Force, and the earlier, international Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCDF), led by Michael Bloomberg, and chaired by Mark Carney. Canada’s new Expert Panel will be chaired by Tiff Macklem, Dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and former Senior Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada; the other three members are Andy Chisholm, member of the Board of Directors of the Royal Bank of Canada; Kim Thomassin, Executive Vice-President, Legal Affairs and Secretariat, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec; and Barbara Zvan, Chief Risk and Strategy Officer, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.
For context on the issue of corporate disclosure, read “Investigation finds nearly half of Canadian failing to Disclose Climate-Related Risk” from the National Observer (April 5), and, in the opposite direction in the United States, In ‘Attack on Shareholder Rights,’ SEC Seeks to Sideline Activist Investors .