A Great Spirit Bear captured on camera in the Great Bear Rainforest, Coast Funds is an Indigenous-led 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 B.C. (photo by Natalie Bowes)

Indigenous peoples to have one more voice at the table

Coast Funds announced a new shareholder proxy voting system

The rights of Indigenous peoples could be amplified with a new shareholder proxy voting system announced last week by the Coast Conservation Endowment Fund Foundation (Coast Funds).

Coast Funds is an Indigenous-led conservation finance organization in partnership with the province of B.C, federal government, and private foundations.

Fiera Capital, an independent asset management firm with approximately $150 billion in assets, 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 the new proxy voting guidelines across all the funds it manages on behalf of Coast Funds.

READ MORE: Sustainable economy flourishing in Haida Gwaii and Great Bear Rainforest thanks to First Nations investments

“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.”

Coast Funds began reviewing their current voting system in 2017. The purpose was to assess instances where environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations had arisen on shareholder proposals to corporations and how the fund voted.

“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. ” said Shannon Rohan, Chief Strategy Officer at SHARE, an organization which helped Coast Funds with their assessment.

Rohan also said the proxy voting system will help corporations 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 set out by the federal government.

READ MORE: Great Bear Rainforest protection takes effect Jan. 1


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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