Aviva Investors issues sustainability warning ahead of AGM season

The Aviva logo sits outside the company head office in the city of London
The Aviva logo sits outside the company head office in the city of London, Britain March 7, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo
  • CEO writes to boards of around 1,600 companies
  • Warns it will vote against sustainability laggards
  • Calls for 'robust and viable' climate plans

LONDON, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Britain's Aviva Investors said on Monday it has warned around 1,600 companies in which it owns stakes that it will hold them accountable at their annual meetings if they prove too slow to meet climate and sustainability targets.

The asset manager said it could sell out of its equity and bond holdings at companies that consistently fail to meet its requirements.

In an annual letter to the chairs of the companies, Chief Executive Mark Versey said it was crucial that boards did not sacrifice longer-term goals because of short-term market risks such as rising inflation and possible recession.

"Potential conflicts could arise in various ways, including securing reliable energy sources by locking in high-carbon capacity, or protecting profit margins by inadvertently damaging the long-term viability of supply chains," Versey said in a statement.

Part of insurer Aviva (AV.L), Versey's group manages around 232 billion pounds in assets

Ahead of the season for annual general meetings, Versey said Aviva would focus on how companies respond to a cost of living crisis in the wake of war in Ukraine, the transition to a low-carbon economy, and efforts to reverse nature loss.

Among specific requests, Aviva said it expected companies to publish "robust and viable" climate transition plans, and to do so in a "just and inclusive manner" that factors in the social upheaval caused by the global shift.

It also said it would look "unfavourably" on attempts by boards to protect profitability and returns through a "disproportionate transfer of costs to employees, suppliers and customers".

During last year's AGMs, Aviva voted against 134 companies for not moving quickly enough on climate change, or for not disclosing enough about their efforts.

Reporting by Simon Jessop; Editing by Jan Harvey

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