Shareholders step up for gender equality

A pleasant surprise at Ontario-based Waste Connections brings signs of progress - we sit down with the visionaries behind the vote at SHARE

Ruth Saldanha 29 May, 2019 | 2:00PM

 

 

 

Ruth Saldanha: For the first time ever in Canada, investors in Ontario-based Waste Connections voted in favor of a shareholder proposal that asked the company to establish a plan to increase the representation of women across the workforce, not just in executive positions. The proposal which received almost 65% of the vote was filed by the British Columbia Teachers' Federation with help from SHARE. To discuss the vote we have Delaney Greig, Shareholder Engagement & Policy Manager at SHARE with us today.

Delaney, thank you so much for being here.

Delaney Greig: Thank you for the interest.

Saldanha: First up, what was so different about this particular vote?

Greig: Well, one that passed, but also – I mean, we were trying to get – so, there's been a disclosure requirement on women on boards in executive positions in Canadian companies for several years now and the progress has been very slow. A lot of companies now have one token woman, a usually highly-qualified woman, but only one on the board of directors. So, we are trying to get deeper at the issue. So, we asked about plans and targets for women on the board and executive as well as throughout the company, so asking for disclosure of metrics of number of women in different positions at different levels in the company.

Saldanha: At a 65% pass was this an expected outcome?

Greig: No, absolutely not. So, the gender-based proposals, because there's a lot of data about the materiality of diversity for companies, so they are getting higher and higher vote results. But we were expecting in the range of 20% to 40%, I would say, because this company does already have one female executive and one female board member. So, it's difficult to tell – shareholders vote in favor when there's none. But to vote in favor when there already is one, I mean, it seems a bit sad to say – but yes, we were not expecting it to be such a high result.

Saldanha: What's expected to happen next after this?

Greig: So, the company is – we have exchanged some emails with the company, and they are working internally on what they are going to do to respond to the request in the proposal. So, I will be following up with them afterwards. But I think the other key here is that this sets the tone that investors are not going to accept inadequate action on this issue and that this is now a mainstream issue. So, I'm hoping that it spurs other companies to act and that we can engage with them on that as well.

Saldanha: Going forward from that, are there any more such proposals expected in Canada?

Greig: I don't think there are this year. So, we had filed a couple and most actually settled before going to a vote, because the companies recognized that they had a problem and were looking at concrete steps to change. So, I'm not aware of any others in Canada this year. I'm sure next year there will be some either filed by us or others to keep the issue moving forward.

Saldanha: Thank you so much for joining us today, Delaney.

Greig: No problem. Thank you.

Saldanha: For Morningstar, I'm Ruth Saldanha.

Securities Mentioned in Article

Security NamePriceChange (%)Morningstar Rating
Waste Connections Inc124.23 CAD0.55

About Author

Ruth Saldanha  Ruth Saldanha is Senior Editor at Morningstar.ca