NETHERLANDS - Large Dutch institutional investors increasingly use their voting clout at shareholders' meetings to fight climate change,  according to environmental organisation Milieudefensie. 

PGGM, in particular, has stepped up its support for climate motions, Milieudefensie found after analysing 48 shareholder motions between 2006 and summer 2008 which asked 28 US and 2 Japanese companies for more climate-friendly policy.

PGGM, the asset manager of the €81bn healthcare scheme PFZW, supported 90% of climate protection motions this year, Milieudefensie said, while APG, the asset manager of the €193bn civil service scheme ABP, as well as investment manager Robeco have also increasingly voted in favour of climate-related motions. 

"Both PGGM and PME, the €20.5bn industry-wide scheme for the Metalektro, stand out for reporting on which companies they engage with on climate change, although PGGM could increase its transparency by explaining its engagement activities," Milieudefensie pointed out.

In contrast, Fortis/ABN Amro are said to have performed badly by opposing 57% climate-related motions, the environmental organisation revealed. However, Milieudefensie noted Fortis has recently promised to increase transparency of its equity funds. 

Worst performer of the six surveyed institutions was the US branch of ING Group, which voted against any proposal to improve companies' climate-related policies. ING Europe took up an average position, by supporting 62% of ‘green' motions, Milieudefensie stated.

The environmental organisation analysed the voting behaviour of the equity funds of Rabobank, ING and Fortis as well as the asset managers of the pension funds ABP, PFZW and PME. 

The survey looked specifically at motions tabled by social organisations at companies in the United States because the country has a lower barrier to amendments, pointed out Willem Verhaak, spokesman for Milieudefensie. 

"While shareholders in the US can already propose changes if they own a 1%-stake or $2,000 in a company,  the respective figures for the Netherlands are 1% or €50m, while other EU countries have similar thresholds," Verhaak explained.