Response to the Sunrise Project report by the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance

8 December 2021

Statement by Günther Thallinger, Allianz SE Board Member and Chair UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, on the Sunrise Project publication – Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance Climate Voting Transparency and Benchmarking Report.

We welcome analysis of our approach, even though we find that it focuses on a very narrow part of our work. We certainly see these exchanges with civil society as an opportunity to further improve our strategy.

Asset owners in the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance have set out to achieve real-world impact quickly and thoroughly. Investment stewardship, which incorporates how both we and our asset managers engage with portfolio companies, is a key component of this transition. Engaging with companies is necessary to support their transition along a science-based path.

However, this engagement is often executed through asset managers. Many asset owners therefore also need asset manager engagement to ensure their interests are aligned. We recognize that proxy voting is a critical aspect of systematically representing our climate risk interests to the companies held in our investment portfolios. That is why we published the proxy voting engagement guidelines to guide asset owners on engaging their asset managers on their voting programs.

Voting is an integral part of stewardship, but it is not always a simple process that can be looked at in a binary way. Each asset owner and asset manager must evaluate the merit of a proposal based on their interpretation of how it aligns with their net-zero commitment. We agree with the importance of principles like transparency and asset manager engagement as meaningful evolutions in the investor stewardship space.

Moreover, the company engagement process needs to utilize much more than just voting. For instance, the Alliance is the only group of companies in the world that is acting now by setting and reporting on 5-year interim targets, including targets for company engagement. Out of 61 members, 30 have already set such targets for 2025, and more will follow. Therefore, we are confident that this large group of asset owners will make significant progress on decarbonization in the real economy by delivering on robust engagement with companies through systematic investment stewardship.

Media Contact

Oliver Wagg, UNEP FI: +44 7885 377264; oliver.wagg@un.org

About the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance

The 61 members of the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance have committed i) to transitioning their investment portfolios to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 consistent with a maximum temperature rise of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels; ii) to establishing intermediate targets every five years; and iii) to regularly reporting on progress. The Alliance is convened by UNEP’s Finance Initiative and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). The Alliance is supported by WWF and Global Optimism, an initiative led by Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

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