The annual meetings of the Ethos Engagement Pools Switzerland and International took place this Thursday morning in Bern. The members of the two programmes validated the ESG themes that will be discussed with Swiss and foreign companies next year.
The annual meetings of Ethos' shareholder dialogue programmes – the Ethos Engagement Pool (EEP) Switzerland and the EEP International – were held on Thursday in Bern. Engagement strategies are a credible way to address the sustainability issues of companies held in portfolios. As such, they are being adopted by a growing number of pension funds. EEP Switzerland welcomed 14 new members in 2022 and now has 167 members with over CHF 359 billion in assets under management. EEP International has added 17 new members since the beginning of the year and now has 100 members (CHF 285 billion in assets).
This annual meeting was an opportunity for Ethos to present the main results of its dialogue activities with listed companies over the past year and for members to validate the priority engagement themes for 2023.
As every year, a representative of a listed company in Switzerland has been invited to present his perception of shareholder dialogue to a panel of representatives of pension funds that are members of Ethos' two engagement programmes. After Romande Energie's CEO Christian Petit in 2021, Zurich Insurance Group's Chairman Michel Liès presented the sustainability challenges for a global company and the impact of climate change on the governance of one of the world's largest insurers.
Revision of Swiss company articles of association as theme 2023
The members of EEP Switzerland agreed on the topics of engagement for the year 2023, i.e. the topics that will be systematically addressed in the exchanges with the 150 largest listed companies in Switzerland (SPI index). These topics include corporate climate change strategy, good governance principles, working conditions and respect for human rights (including within supply chains), social and environmental reporting, and corporate digital responsibility. This last topic will be the subject of a second Ethos study to be published in early 2023.
In connection with the entry into force of the new Swiss Code of Obligations, the members of EEP Switzerland also agreed that Ethos will conduct an intensive dialogue with companies to ensure that they do not take advantage of a change in the articles of association to undermine the rights of their shareholders.
Climate and plastic pollution at the heart of international engagement
The members of EEP International also validated the main themes of dialogue for the year 2023. Four main areas remain a priority: climate change, human and labour rights, good corporate governance, and biodiversity protection. In the dialogue activities with foreign companies, which also take place through participation in international investor initiatives, particular attention will be paid to climate strategies (credibility, targets validated by science, involvement of the board of directors, etc.).
Furthermore, in view of the urgency of the matter, the members also validated a new engagement campaign aimed at encouraging companies to implement policies to combat plastic pollution and promote the circular economy.