In response to the impending oil crash of 2014, the BCGEU moved the funds invested by the union defense fund into a fund directly controlled by the union. With the power to make decisions over where money was invested, also came the ability to engage more directly in the companies the union is invested in. This was the birth of the BCGEU Capital Stewardship program.
Over the past 5 years, BCGEU has built one of Canada’s leading capital stewardship programs and one of the only labour-led capital stewardship programs in the country. Mobilizing the union’s fully-divested General and Defense Fund investments, we’re walking the talk of our responsible investment policy while fighting for working people. We understand that better managed companies that protect workers, human rights, and the environment make for better investments, and that’s why we do what we do.
As long term investors, we engage in the companies in our portfolio on key environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, and we do proxy voting in-house.
To date, we’ve filed impactful and game-changing shareholder proposals at some of Canada’s largest and most influential companies and we’ve pushed companies to take action on executive compensation, climate risk, human rights, and much more.
Right now, we are engaging with dozens of leading Canadian companies and brands including Loblaws, Dollarama, The Royal Bank of Canada, and more on some of the most important issues of our time. We have asked companies to improve what they are doing with regards to human rights, climate protection and the rights of workers. To date, we’ve secured major wins at TD Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Montreal, Thomson Reuters, and others.
In 2022-2023, we’re planning our most ambitious year yet and are approaching companies about Indigenous rights, forced labour, the financialization of housing, climate emission reductions, human rights, and much more.
Here's a look at some of the work that we've been up to recently:
Following BCGEU’s 2022 shareholder proposal at TD Bank, BCGEU was able to withdraw its proposal after TD committed to a third-party racial equity assessment examining the effectiveness of the bank’s employment policies in Canada and the United States as they relate to Black, brown, Asian, and Indigenous people and other marginalized groups. TD will become the first chartered bank and perhaps the first publicly traded company in Canada to do such an audit.
Dollarama outsources its critical warehouse and distribution centre staffing to third party staffing agencies, and workers do not have contracts, benefits, or rights. Many of these workers are racialized or are new immigrants and asylum seekers in Canada, and have reported major safety issues, workplace injuries, and a lack of training.
The precariousness of their employment makes many workers hesitant to report incidents and occupational injuries, or to file for compensation.
In 2021, working closely with workers, we asked Dollarama to prepare a report outlining how it addresses the human rights issues that arise out of its use of third-party staffing agencies for its warehouse and distribution centre staffing needs and 20% of investors backed the proposal. In 2022, we asked why Dollarama fails to include freedom of association in its Vendor Code of Conduct. Dollarama's own peers including Metro Inc. have chosen to include freedom of association and collective bargaining in their vendor/supplier codes, making Dollarama's decision to exclude such matters even more questionable. Investors voted 18% in favour of our shareholder proposal.
Canadian media giant Thomson Reuters created data compiling software that has been used to track, detain, and deport undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers in the United States. This includes separating families and detaining people in conditions that violate their human rights. We asked the company to investigate and report on human rights abuses enabled by the use of these software products.
In 2020 and 2021, our proposals earned considerable media coverage and the attention of major investors. Almost 30% of non-controlled Thomson Reuters shareholders voted for our proposal in 2020, and in 2021, that number jumped to over 70%. In 2022, our pressure successfully pushed the company to align with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and to conduct a human rights audit.
Loblaw is facing scrutiny for its involvement in forced labour in the Uyghur region of China. According to investigative reporting from the CBC, Loblaw sold tomatoes produced with forced labour from the Uyghur region. Shipping data compiled by Dr. Laura Murphy, Professor of Human Rights and Contemporary Slavery at Sheffield Hallam University (UK) also found Loblaw is importing textiles from the region.
Loblaw customers and shareholders have very limited information on how its suppliers are complying with human rights laws and practices, something that retailers monitor through supplier audits. Currently, Loblaw only discloses the total number of audits conducted, a practice that falls short of its global peers and accepted ESG disclosure practices. Our proposal asked Loblaws to provide shareholders with supply chain audit data in line with peers. At the 2022 AGM, over 70% of independent shareholders voted in favour of our proposal.
Bank of Montreal
In the United States, an increasing number of publicly traded and private entities are purchasing single family residences on a large-scale basis and converting them into rental accommodation. Groups such as the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing have raised concerns about the potential for adverse human rights impacts stemming from this financialization of housing.
Because of our proposal, we were able to secure a commitment from BMO to enhance the training it provides to its commercial real estate banking teams to specifically address identifying and evaluating the potential for adverse human rights impacts related to the purchase and conversion of single-family residences into rental accommodation. The bank also agreed to raise this important topic with its peers through industry groups, and to share its own training practices with others.