Corporate Business Team clapping success at Boardroom meeting

Rockville, Md.-based proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS) is expanding its voting policy regarding gender diversity at Canadian companies beyond firms are included in the S&P/TSX composite index, the proxy advisory firm announced Monday.

The change is included a series of updates to benchmark voting policies for the upcoming proxy season, which will apply to shareholder meetings starting Feb. 1, 2019, ISS says in a news release.

The firm’s policy on gender diversity was introduced in 2017 for companies that belong to the S&P/TSX composite index.

Approximately 12% of widely held TSX-listed companies do not have either a formal gender diversity policy or at least one female director, the firm says. ISS is expanding the application of voting policies to a broader selection of companies “because these companies are widely institutionally-held, and their corporate governance practices are the subject of heightened scrutiny by institutional investors,” ISS says.

Additionally, ISS is  harmonizing its policy on “overboarding” to further align Canadian ISS policy with recent and continuous feedback received from Canadian institutional investors during roundtable discussions and one-on-one policy outreach meetings. Additionally, the approach is intended to align with the policy approach of global institutional investors.

“Given the large number of Canadian issuers that are dual-listed in both Canada and the U.S., institutional investors have also supported the harmonization of ISS’ Canadian and U.S. overboarding thresholds,” ISS says, noting that the updated policy is also aligned with the recommendations of the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG).

Along with its revised benchmark proxy voting policies for Canada, ISS also released its latest policy changes for the rest of the Americas region, the EMEA and Asia-Pacific regions.

For example, it’s adopting a new voting policy for U.S. companies with no female directors (which won’t take effect until 2020) calling for voting against nominating committee chairs at boards with no gender diversity. The new policy won’t take effect until 2020.

The firm also says that its research reports on companies in the U.S. and Canada for the upcoming proxy season will feature Economic Value Added (EVA) data as a supplement to GAAP-based measures.

“We are pleased to have received much thoughtful feedback and inputs from a broad range of institutional investors, companies and other interested market constituents as part of our annual policy development process this year, and on a wide variety of topics,” say Georgina Marshall, global head of research and chair of the ISS global policy board, in a statement.

“The policy changes we are announcing today have been carefully considered and are designed to underpin the needs of our institutional investor clients for informed and relevant research and recommendations based on widely recognized good standards of, and approaches to, corporate governance,” she adds.