Vision Super encourages its agents and other industry membership affiliations to undertake company-specific engagements where we believe that:
- Engagement will lead to an improvement in the value of a company’s shares over the long term
- Engagement will lead to an improvement in the company’s current operations in relation to environmental, social and/or governance considerations
- It is in our members’ best interests.
In determining whether (and how) the engagement is to be taken forward, due regard must be given to the level of the company’s exposure to the issue/s at hand and the likelihood of engagement success and the potential to bring about positive change. Such considerations are based around an assessment of the likely impact of the engagement and the ultimate benefit to the value of the Trustee’s holding in the company.
We believe it is our duty, along with our investment managers, to engage with companies to communicate our concerns and position on environmental, social and governance issues. In engaging with a company, we assess the likely impact of the engagement and the ultimate benefit to the value of our holdings.
Engagements may involve meetings with company directors and executives, discussions with other shareholders of the company, participation in collaborative investor initiatives and the submission of shareholder resolutions at company meetings.
Furthermore, engagements may involve:
- Meetings with executive and non-executive directors;
- Meetings with other company representatives;
- Discussions with the other shareholders of the company;
- Participation in collaborative investor initiatives; and
- Submission of shareholder resolutions at general meetings (as appropriate).
- The Trustee has a fiduciary obligation to act in the best interests of members and will participate in class actions against companies where this has been assessed to be in the best interests of members.
The Vision Super proxy voting principles are set out below:
- We will subscribe to proxy advice voting research and we will vote in line with these principles.
- We will vote consistently on all proxy ballots for our shareholdings at all meetings. There is no delegation to the underlying investment managers for any voting.
- We will strive to recall all securities for proxy voting purposes that are part of the custodian’s securities lending program.
- We believe that all shareholders should be treated fairly.
- We believe that significant merger or acquisition activity should be decided by shareholders.
- We will support executive remuneration that is not excessive and performance incentives that are in line with the long-term goals of the company.
- We will endorse executive bonus structures that are based on long-term performance, and on factors that are within management’s control.
- We believe companies should provide adequate notice of at least three weeks for upcoming meetings to allow shareholders time to properly consider the proposed resolutions.
- We will encourage the disclosure of all lobbying, advertising and advocacy activities, along with an evaluation of whether or not they are positively in line with the Paris climate change agreement and community values.
- We believe that companies should provide transparency around and justification of any political donations and partisan political advertising.
- We will encourage Board gender and cognitive diversity, and a corporate culture that is inclusive of women.
- We will promote limits on multiple board positions for directors and CEOs.
- We will advocate for company boards to have an independent non-executive chair.
- We will aim to maximise risk adjusted returns to members.
We conduct engagement with ASX-listed companies in collaboration with our external ESG provider ACSI.
ACSI understand that every company is not the same and approach engagement with each based on the specific issues at hand and circumstances. ACSI conducts engagements with ASX-listed companies throughout the course of the year. ACSI held almost 300 meetings with more than 200 organisations in 2019, effecting either significant change or commitments to improve from 112 of a record 174 priority companies. Furthermore, they made proxy research recommnedations on 321 ASX 300 company meetings which consisted of 1,747 resolutions which also resulted in 27 remuneration strikes.
Cultural and compliance failings at blue-chip companies continued to drive ACSI Members to use their voting power to hold boards and executives accountable in 2019. This increased scrutiny from investors also led to a record number of ‘first strikes’ on pay and the precedent-setting shareholder-proposed vote on climate lobbying at BHP where Vision Super was one of the co-filers to that shareholder resolution and the only Australian superannuation fund to do so.
ACSI's approach to engagement is outlined within their Governance Guidelines as referenced in the following link:
ACSI engages with government, regulators and other system-wide financial market providers to ensure markets are focused on the long-term and in the best interest's of their clients underlying constituents and member base. ACSI's guidelines are generally updated every two years in conjunction with member feedback along with other stakeholders in order to be in line with specific governance themes and regulatory and compliance industry dynamics.
Core to ACSI's principles fro the basis of their governance guidelines are as follows:
- Board oversight of all material risks
- Sustainable and long-term value creation
- Active ownership
- License to operate
ACSI's evaluation towards company engagement and voting recommendations cover a broad range of considerations, inclusive of the materiality of matter at hand, the context in which an issue has come about, length of time involved and any improvements over the years on a company's attitude towards previous issues raised.
The Fund also has a direct subscription service for proxy research advice for Australian and international equities with Glass Lewis. They also have a parnerhsip with ACSI for international proxy research advice for members locally. Glass Lewis evaluates companys and proposals on a case by case basis and reviews its guidelines periodically and on an annual basis taking into account a number of external factors along with the respective companies performance.
Vision also utilises Glass Lewis's "Viewpoint" platform which is a proxy voting web-based intuitive software platform allowing us to manage our proxy voting, access to research-advice and work-flow management.