In a Canadian first, investors voted in favour of a shareholder proposal on gender diversity at Waste Connections Inc.’s annual meeting

By May 17, 2019News

With support from SHARE. the British Columbia Teachers Federation’s motion received 64.49% of shareholder votes requesting the company establishes a plan to increase the representation of women across the workforce

By Delaney Greig, Shareholder Engagement and Policy Manager at SHARE

We are pleased to announce that today, shareholders of Waste Connections Inc. (TSE:WCN) voted 64.49% in favour of a proposal requesting the company establishes a clear plan to increase the representation of women on its Board, in executive officer positions and across the workforce.

This proposal was filed by the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) – an organization dedicated to aligning its investments with its values – and supported by SHARE’s Engagement team.

Although it is becoming a corporate governance standard in North America, this is the first time a proposal on gender has passed at a Canadian company. Issuers in Canada are now required to disclose the number of women on their board and executive positions as well as their targets for increasing representation. However, what is particularly significant about this vote is that it requests diversity reporting at each level of the entire company.

“We found the company’s attitude towards diversity to be unfortunately outdated by arguing that it is not possible to find more than one qualified executive who is also a woman”

SHARE has been engaging companies on diversity for a number of year and has seen a progressively stronger response.

The 2018 Canadian Securities Administrators Review of Disclosure regarding Women on Boards and in Executive Officer Positions found that among companies of comparable size to Waste Connections, women hold 25% of board seats. By contrast, Waste Connections has only one woman on the Board of Directors (14%) and one woman in an executive officer position (11%). While we fully acknowledge the qualifications of those two women, it is clear that investors are no longer satisfied with such limited gender diversity.

Research has demonstrated that companies with greater gender equality in board and executive leadership outperform their peers that do not. As an organization that works with long-term shareholders, we at SHARE believe Waste Connections will benefit from establishing a clear plan to increase the representation of women on the Board, in executive officer positions and across the workforce.

SHARE engaged in dialogue with the company earlier this year, but unlike a number of Canadian companies that responded by committing to increasing diversity, the response from Waste Connections management was to recommend shareholders vote against our proposal.

“While we consider the level of representation of women in our executive team when making executive officer appointments,” wrote the company in its 2019 proxy statement. “It is only one of a number of factors (which include leadership capabilities, mature judgment, merit, talent, experience, expertise and strategic/innovative thinking) that are considered in selecting the best candidates for executive officer positions.”

We found the company’s attitude towards diversity to be unfortunately outdated by arguing that it is not possible to find more than one qualified executive who is also a woman.

SHARE is proud to support BCTF’s responsible investment leadership and their efforts through shareholder engagement and proxy voting to improve corporate practices including related to gender diversity.

We will be following up with the company to hold it accountable in implementing this proposal, requested by the majority of its shareholders.