Stewardship with Purpose, by Shundrawn Thomas, Northern Trust Assets Management

Jul 15, 2021 1:10 PM ET
Article

The events of the past year — the humanitarian crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, the pain of racial injustice, and the environmental damage from wildfires in Australia and California — remind us of how much we all must do to effect change and improve the world in which we live.

We know you are counting on us to do our part, to drive meaningful change as we invest on your behalf. Through our stewardship efforts, we advance this aim.

As one of the world’s largest investment managers, we appreciate the influence we have as investment stewards — and the trust you place in us to use it. Doing so requires a disciplined commitment to sustainability and responsible stewardship — and it is through this lens we view our responsibility.

Our stewardship process is rooted in our firmly held belief that it is our duty to regularly engage with the companies in our portfolios. That’s why we identify long-term risks that have the potential to pose challenges to shareholder value, and we engage on issues of substance — those that can affect business on many levels. After all, environmental, social and corporate governance issues impact the long-term success of all firms, and therefore are important to all investors.

With $1.1 trillion in assets under management across 10,000 companies globally, we recognize we have a respected voice and responsibility to engage with corporate boards and management to ensure sustainable business practices. In 2020 we did just that, voting on 148,039 resolutions at 15,681 meetings. We and our outside engagement partner EOS held more than

3,000 discussions with companies on a range of issues, including board and workforce diversity, the risks of climate change, and executive compensation.

While 2020 brought many of these issues to the forefront, there’s still more work to do. Purposeful stewardship comes down to achieving a tangible and lasting commitment to sustainability. We remain committed to using our voice and stature to effect meaningful change — and results. In the year ahead, we will continue to press on issues shaping the world in which we live and invest, from workplace safety and net-zero carbon emissions targets to workforce diversity and executive compensation. Because, in the end, we understand the best way to achieve our shared goals is to engage fully and to give voice to your values.