The Pension Board of The United Church of Canada actively engages companies as a responsible investor. It undertakes this engagement through the Vancouver-based Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE). SHARE brings professional resources to the assessment of company behaviours and changes that would improve corporate citizenship. With SHARE, and its extensive client base, the board is able to leverage its impact by working collectively with other religious and secular investors.
Companies the Pension Board has engaged recently include, among others, Goldcorp, Restaurant Brands International, Cenovus, and TD Bank.
- Goldcorp: Canadian mining company Goldcorp has been the focus of considerable attention in some parts of the United Church. In response, the Pension Board has been engaging the company for several years. This winter it co-filed, with the Presbyterian Church in Canada, shareholder proposals that led the company to agree to disclose a recent independent human rights assessment update and plans for the closure and reclamation of the Marlin Mine site in Guatemala. The company also agreed to enhance its reporting of political contributions, memberships in and contributions to policy research and advocacy organizations, and protocols for investigating allegations of non-compliance with governance and ethics policies.
- Restaurant Brands International: The Pension Fund filed a shareholder proposal with Restaurant Brands International (the parent company of Burger King and Tim Hortons) regarding the risk of child labour in its coffee supply chain. As a result, the company has agreed to expanding the way it works with coffee farmers on issues of child labour, better ensuring that any farm labour is consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The company also agreed to improvements in its regional training initiatives to highlight concerns about child and forced labour.
- Cenovus: A number of discussions were held with Canadian energy company Cenovus, securing commitments to end all political contributions by the company and to fully disclose all lobbying activities in all jurisdictions in which it operates.
- TD Bank: There has been dialogue with TD about its response to the Dakota Access Pipeline. TD has indicated that it is urging the operating company Energy Transfer Partners to seek a long-term solution that respects Indigenous rights. It is also leading the banks that committed project-level financing to the project in commissioning a study of impact and lessons learned about environmental and social credit risk assessment when evaluating projects.
Marcus Robertson, chair of the Pension Board, explains that when the pension plan’s investment managers hold a company in their portfolios about which concerns have been raised, the Pension Board will use engagement to give voice to these concerns and work for change.
“The board sees this as a responsible, constructive, and faithful response,” says Robertson.