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NEI Investments divests financial conglomerate over climate change risks

Shareholder exits owner of Canada Life and Putnam Investments

NEI Investments, the leading Canadian responsible investor, has divested its stake in financial holding company Great-West Lifeco because of a lack of disclosure of its climate change risks.

Great-West Lifeco owns major names such as Canada Life and Putnam Investments, the latter a signatory to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment.

“If you can’t change a company you don’t own, then divestment ought to be the last resort,” NEI said. It says it spent four years trying to learn how Winnipeg-based Great-West Lifeco was addressing the business risks of climate change.

“In the four years that Great-West Lifeco was on our Focus List,” NEI said, “we filed three shareholderresolutions and wrote two separate letters to management; yet managed to meet with company management only once.” The asset manager says it felt it had no choice but to sell its shares – which was unfortunate as there will be “even less pressure on the company to change”.

NEI’s most recent proposal on climate change risks at Great-West Lifeco was at the Toronto-listed company’s annual meeting in May 5 last year.

Great-West Lifeco, advising shareholders to vote against the proposal, said it “does not believe that climate change is having a significant impact on its business or on the businesses of its major subsidiaries”. NEI’s proposal received 7.3% support; a similar proposal the year before gained 9% backing. Link