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VBDOs AGM priority themes for 2023

Since 1995 we have been a loyal visitor to general shareholders’ meetings (AGMs). Every year, we ask critical questions to the directors of around 40 Dutch, listed companies, to promote sustainable business operations. During the engagement process, the most material Environmental, Social and Governance issues with regard to companies and sectors will be addressed. VBDO will focus on three priority themes in 2022:

Biodiversity (environmental, SDG 14 & 15 directly) – new engagement theme

VBDO’s new environmental priority theme in 2022 will be “biodiversity”. We are familiar with this theme as we have focused on this three times in our 27-year history (2003-2005, 2010-2013, and Natural Capital from 2017-2018). We observe an increased interest in this topic from financial markets, companies and regulators, but much more needs to be done to bend the curve of nature loss. WWF’s Nature’s 2020 Living Planet Report states that wildlife populations have declined by 68% since 1970. There is no time to waste to solve this crisis.

VBDO will define a clear vision for corporate action on biodiversity. We want to know how companies take accountability and
contribute to net-zero loss of biodiversity or become nature positive in the long term. VBDO is aware that biodiversity and the
biological diversity of species are not as material to all companies directly, but all companies rely on goods and services that are
linked to natural capital. Therefore, companies are expected to identify risks and opportunities following topics such as land use, air quality, water use and quality, climate and soil, both for their own operations and in their supply chains. Although reporting of impacts and externalities is key, VBDO’s main focus will be on a company’s nature and biodiversity-related strategy, relevant KPIs and the implementation of mitigating actions.

Labour conditions in supply chains (social, SDG 8) – engagement theme since 2020

Companies have an impact on human rights wherever and however they operate. VBDO expects companies to make sure labour
conditions of workers in the supply chains adhere to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Companies
should collaborate proactively with the sector, local stakeholders and NGOs to advance due diligence approaches and set
relevant targets and KPIs to track progress.

Advocacy & lobbying (governance, SDG 17) – new engagement theme

VBDO’s new governance priority theme in 2023 will be “advocacy & lobbying”. VBDO expects companies to be transparent about their advocacy and lobby activities and objectives. Companies can influence sustainability-related legislation processes either via directly lobbying with policy-makers or via aligned industry associations.

Whilst lobbying can lead to better regulation, it can also hinder essential legislation. For example, research from InfluenceMap shows that only 26% of the companies, that are included in the Climate Action 100+ benchmark, have policy engagement programmes that are in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Moreover, only 11% of their aligned industry associations have climate lobby positions that are in line with the Paris Agreement’s goals.

VBDO expects companies to be transparent about their, and their aligned industry associations, advocacy and lobby activities. Our main focus will be on (1) the company’s and its industry association’s public position on relevant legislation, (2) the company’s advocacy and lobbying policy, (3) the implementation and (4) transparency.

We would like to further the discussion on the above-mentioned themes with you. If you have any questions regarding the above information, please let us know.

How we engage

You can find more information on our engagement process, planned visits and reports here.