Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 5 and 8 have been identified as those which DNB has the best chance of making a difference in. Making meaningful contributions towards these goals is important to DNB Asset Management. This is why gender equality and diversity is prioritised in our engagement strategy as one of our five thematic focus areas in 2019.
Historically, excluding companies has been the main tool used by investors to ensure that funds are responsible and sustainable. However, as the approach to responsible investment has matured, active ownership (through engagements and voting) and integrating material Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) risks and opportunities into investment decisions has become best practice. These are the most important tools we can use to deliver our ambition to push companies in positive direction in regards to both gender equality and diversity.
In Norway we have come far on this topic. However, as a global investor, we also need to work towards laggard markets to put this subject on the agenda and to encourage necessary progress.
What have we done so far this year?
We have clarified our interpretation of DNB Group’s Standard for Responsible Investments on this topic by developing and publishing a dedicated expectations document on gender equality and diversity.
Developing expectations documents is an important part of our standard setting work, by setting expectations towards companies about what is considered best practice within this area. We have also utilised our shareholder rights by voting at company general meetings on items related to gender equality and diversity. To date, we have done the following:
• Voted at nine general meetings in regards to this topic. Specifically, we have voted for items related to comprehensive reporting on gender pay gap.
• Sent a letter to a company following its general meeting to further strengthen our position on gender diversity requirements at Board level.
• Engaged with a company’s Nomination Committee on gender equality and diversity considerations in the process for finding new Board members.
We have also practised active ownership by engaging with companies on this topic. Dialogues have primarily covered company gender diversity at Board level. Working through investor collaborations is also important. We are in the process of signing letters that will be sent to global companies, promoting the Women’s Empowerment Principles and workplace equity.
What happens next?
We have developed a methodology for identifying target companies for engagement. This involves considering the country and sector in which the company operates, its ESG score, and whether the company has less than 30% females on its board. We will prioritise further by considering company weights in active portfolios.
We have also developed an engagement framework covering seven sub-topics: representation, programmes, policies, empowerment, equality in pay, controversies, and third-party assurance. Through this framework, we will gather more data, score companies and track progress over time.