BOSTON Fidelity Investments may support shareholder proxy proposals calling on companies to report on sustainability matters this year, a major shift by the Boston asset manager as climate activists gain more traction at large U.S. corporations.
While Fidelity will generally vote as company managers recommend on environmental or social issues, “Fidelity may support shareholder proposals calling for reports on sustainability, renewable energy and environmental impact issues,” states a new section of its proxy voting guidelines.
The guidelines were put in place in January for this spring’s annual meeting season and have not previously been reported.
Fidelity spokeswoman Nicole Goodnow said Fidelity’s new policy comes as client interest grows in how companies approach environmental, social and governance issues.
Other big fund companies including BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) and State Street Corp (STT.N) have also lent support lately to calls for U.S. companies to account for how climate change could affect their business.
Shareholders passed such resolutions at Occidental Petroleum Corp (OXY.N) and at utility holding company PPL Corp, (PPL.N) this month, and a high-profile test is due at Exxon’s annual meeting on May 31.
Fidelity’s new language marks a milestone since the family-controlled Boston fund manager, the fourth-largest U.S. fund firm with about $2.1 trillion under management, had given little indication its climate stance was also changing.
During the last two proxy seasons Fidelity funds opposed or abstained on every one of 30 shareholder proposals related to climate questions at U.S. companies, according to researcher Proxy Insight. BlackRock had a similar record but made clear in March that climate risk would be a top priority in its outreach to companies this year.
The new stance by the Boston firm shows “Fidelity doesn’t want to be sidelined from some of the most consequential decisions being…