Coast Funds Announces Shareholder Proxy Voting Guidelines Advocating for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

A gyaaGang monumental pole raised in 2017 in honour of the ancestors who occupied Tlielang Hiellen Village Site beside Hl’yaalang Gandlee, the river that runs beside Taaw Tow Hill, Haida Gwaii. Photo by Brodie Guy.

For Immediate Release

GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST, BRITISH COLUMBIA—Coast Conservation Endowment Fund Foundation (“Coast Funds”)—an Indigenous-led conservation finance organization created by First Nations, the governments of British Columbia and Canada, and private foundations as part of the 2006 Great Bear Rainforest agreements—with its fund manager Fiera Capital Corporation (“Fiera Capital”),  the Shareholder Association for Research & Education (SHARE), and independent investment advisor George & Bell Consulting, today announced new shareholder proxy voting guidelines that advocate for the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Coast Funds announced shareholder proxy voting guidelines today that demonstrate leadership in spurring corporate Canada to adopt call-to-action 92 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“Coast Funds’ investment guidelines set a new standard with specific and directive proxy voting guidelines to ensure recognition of Indigenous Rights by the boards of publicly traded companies,” said Coast Funds’ board chair Huux Percy Crosby, of the Haida Nation. “To secure project access and ensure assets realize a return, leading companies must recognize the right to the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of affected Indigenous communities and deliver tangible benefits to them.”

Fiera Capital, a leading independent asset management firm with approximately C$150 billion in assets under management and a United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (“UN PRI”) signatory since 2009, currently manages over $1 billion for Indigenous Trusts and Organizations across Canada and acts as investment counsel for Coast Funds’ Canadian and global equities, representing assets under management of approximately $30 million. Fiera Capital will apply these new voting guidelines across all the funds it manages on behalf of Coast Funds.

Before developing these guidelines with Fiera Capital, in 2017 Coast Funds first embarked upon a review of its historical proxy voting activity to assess instances where environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations had arisen and determine how the fund had voted on shareholder proposals to corporations.  To conduct this review, Coast Funds engaged the Shareholder Association for Research & Education (SHARE), who represents a growing network of institutional investors with more than $23 billion in assets under management on issues related to responsible investment.

“In order to build stronger, healthier communities and economies, SHARE ensures that investments and corporate actions are continually contributing to the ongoing work of reconciliation. Our work is grounded in the principles of reconciliation and our commitment to shifting the corporate and investment sectors so they function in a manner that is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action,” said Shannon Rohan, Chief Strategy Officer at SHARE.

“Since SHARE began working with Coast Funds in early 2018, we have seen the organization set a new standard in Canada among investment organizations through its efforts to align their investments with their values, including reconciliation.”

Following the review, Coast Funds developed new proxy voting guidelines with advice from SHARE and with ongoing advice from long-time independent investment advisor, George & Bell Consulting.

“In the past several years, environmental, social, and governance principles have become increasingly common in investment guidelines, but Coast Funds is certainly one of the leaders in terms of developing proxy voting guidelines that include specific guidelines around Indigenous Rights,” says Brendan George, partner with George & Bell Consulting. “They are at the leading edge of this evolution in proxy voting guidelines and I see more institutional investors following their lead in the future.”

“In our role as an Indigenous-led charitable foundation that finances First Nations’ efforts to strengthen human well-being and to fulfill their inherent stewardship responsibilities across coastal British Columbia, we feel it’s essential for Coast Funds to continually assess and evolve our socially responsible investment practices,” said Chris Trumpy, investment, finance and audit committee chair, Coast Funds. “We hope our efforts to recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples through responsible shareholder advocacy are adopted more broadly by foundations, pension funds, trusts and universities across Canada and eventually, globally.”

Through the investment guidelines released today, Coast Funds is upholding its values and the values of the First Nations the organization works in service of, and calls upon philanthropy across Canada to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent and implementation of the United Nations’ Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples throughout their foundations’ investment practices.

The full guidelines can be downloaded here: https://coastfunds.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Coast-Funds-Investment-Guidelines-CCEFF.pdf

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About Coast Funds

Coast Funds is a globally recognized model of Indigenous-led, permanent conservation finance that invests to strengthen the well-being of First Nations and the ecological integrity of the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii regions of British Columbia, Canada.  Founded with $118 million in 2007, and approving funding for its first project in 2008, Coast Funds is a partnership of private foundations and government.  As of June 18, 2019, Coast Funds has approved $87.4 million towards 372 conservation and sustainable economic development projects. For more information, visit: http://www.coastfunds.ca/

About Fiera Capital Corporation

Fiera Capital is a leading independent asset management firm with approximately C$149.5 billion in assets under management as of June 30, 2019. The Company provides institutional, retail and private wealth clients with access to full-service integrated money management solutions across traditional and alternative asset classes. Clients and their portfolios derive benefit from Fiera Capital’s depth of expertise, diversified offerings and outstanding service. Fiera Capital trades under the ticker FSZ on the Toronto Stock Exchange. www.fieracapital.com

In the U.S., asset management services are provided by the Company’s U.S. affiliates who are investment advisers that are registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration with the SEC does not imply a certain level of skill or training.

Additional information about Fiera Capital Corporation, including the Company’s annual information form, is available on SEDAR at www.sedar.com.

About the Shareholder Association for Research & Education

Since 2000, the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE) has built a community of values-driven investors who are committed to amplifying their voices in support of a sustainable, inclusive and productive economy. SHARE is the leading non-profit investor voice on responsible investment in Canada, representing a growing network of institutional investors with more than $23 billion in assets under management. SHARE provides proxy voting execution and analysis, shareholder engagement, education, policy advocacy, and practical research on issues related to responsible investment. SHARE’s clients include foundations, pension funds, mutual funds, faith-based organizations and asset managers across Canada.

For more information, visit: http://www.share.ca/

About George & Bell Consulting

George & Bell Consulting Inc. (G&B) is a privately-held corporation, wholly-owned by four partners, based in B.C. with offices in Vancouver and Whitehorse. G&B is a pension, benefits and investment consulting firm that advises boards, plan sponsors, participants and other stakeholders of pension and benefit plans. Their clients include unions, management, endowments, foundations and jointly-governed plans in the public and private sectors in Western Canada and the North. G&B partners with clients to find creative and proactive solutions to client issues. G&B is a signatory to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment.

For more information, visit: www.georgeandbell.com

Contacts:

Coast Funds
Laura Hope
Communications Manager
laura@coastfunds.ca
T: 604-684-0223 ext 4
C: 778-886-5624

Shareholder Association for Research and Education
Damon van der Linde
Communications Coordinator
dvanderlinde@share.ca
T: 604-695-2039
C: 236-865-4048

George & Bell Consulting
Tanya George
Communications
tgeorge@georgeandbell.com
C: 604-724-6012