The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is expanding the number of countries in which it will apply its most stringent board gender diversity proxy voting rules.

“We have enhanced our gender diversity voting practice by expanding the countries where our 30 per threshold for female representation applies to include South Africa and New Zealand,” said Richard Manley, managing director and head of sustainable investing at the CPPIB, in a press release.

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Since 2017, the CPPIB has voted against members of company boards that don’t have enough women as members. In previous iterations of the guidelines, company boards based in Canada, Europe, the U.K. and the U.S. would require boards with at least 30 per cent female representation in order for its members to secure the support of the CPPIB during reelections. In other regions, the CPPIB would support boards with a single female member, though the investment organization said these rules are likely to change.

“We expect to apply a 30 per cent threshold to more countries and markets in the next few years, particularly in emerging markets where board diversity can be as low as one woman on the board,” said Manley. “We recognize that companies need time to diversify their board membership and we want to flag our intentions ahead of future changes to our [proxy voting guidelines].”

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The updates to the proxy voting guidelines also include updates to the CPPIB’s guidance regarding classified corporate boards in which a subset of directors is put forward for election by shareholders at each annual general meeting, rather than all members. Going forward, the CPPIB will consider voting against all directors up for election in these circumstances.

The new guidelines also require the CPPIB to vote against the reinstatement of risk committee members at companies that have not identified, quantified and integrated climate risks into company strategies. If these risks aren’t addressed, the guidelines now require the investment organization to consider escalating its concerns by voting against the entire board.

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