Cometa, the largest Italian supplementary pension fund with assets under management of over €13bn, said it will vote in favour of diversity and equal opportunities at the upcoming annual general meetings (AGMs) of the listed companies it owns.

The pension fund will support corporate governance policies of firms that, according to current rules, elect a board of directors where the minimum share of 40% of the less represented gender is significantly exceeded, it added.

Cometa also wants board members from gender minorities to hold senior roles, such as chair of the board or chief executive officer.

Cometa’s chair Riccardo Realfonso said: “We want to encourage companies not just to reach the minimum share of representation [of gender minorities] established by law, but to exceed it in a very significant way, and at the same time to commit themselves to making top roles increasingly inclusive and equal. In this way, we intend to support in particular the role and key contribution of women on boards of directors and in top management positions.”

With its voting policy, the pension fund intends to push listed companies towards “equal and inclusive governance”, it added in a statement.

Cometa will vote at the upcoming AGMs of eight companies including energy and gas supplier A2a, energy company Eni, electricity and gas supplier Enel, Finecobank, Mediobanca, and Pirelli.

At this year’s 62 AGMs, a total of 584 directors will be elected, including approximately 230 representing gender minorities, according to the recent amendment to the 2020 Budget Law.

The Budget Law passed by the Italian parliament in 2022 has raised from 33% to 40% the minimum share of board of directors representing gender minorities.

Andrea Scaffidi, total reward and executive solutions director at WTW Italy, told IPE that the issue of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has risen on the agendas of institutional investors to become an important topic for investment policies, with the regulatory framework constantly evolving.

He added: “Pension funds have, in my personal opinion, a dual role: to invest in companies aiming at a sustainable and profitable medium to long-term growth, but also to be an agent of change.”

Cometa’s decision on diversity and inclusion is encouraging and it could be the first among many other pension funds that will adopt selective policies in the choice of their investments by looking at how companies operate in terms of DEI, Scaffidi said.

So far this year, Cometa has voted against the remuneration awards for CEOs and in favour of labour rights at various other AGMs.

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