Vanguard has blocked climate partners from attending its annual investor meeting weeks after it announced its decision to leave the Net Zero Asset Managers (NZAM) alliance.
The US giant, which held its annual webinar for institutional investors on 12 January, barred not-for-profit environmental firm Sierra Club and other climate organisations from the meeting, despite first approving their registration.
When Sierra Club and other climate risk groups attempted to join their access was blocked without reason.
Jessye Waxman, senior campaign representative at Sierra Club, told ETF Stream: “Several of us had signed up to hear what Vanguard had to say, and after receiving approval, we were denied entry when clicking the link.
“It was unfortunate we were not able to hear what was happening and found it odd that after signing up and stating our affiliation, we were no longer allowed into the meeting.”
Vanguard holds annual meetings for both retail and institutional clients where it communicates its expectations and priorities for the year ahead.
.@Vanguard_Group is currently hosting its annual webinar for institutional investors. Sierra Club & other climate partners have been blocked from that meeting, which makes you wonder what they're telling their institutional clients. /1
— Jessye Waxman (@jessyewaxman) January 12, 2023
However, Waxman said climate organisations are finding it harder to have conversations with the $7trn asset manager on climate risk.
Last December, Vanguard announced it was leaving NZAM, a major investment industry group created to battle climate change, stating it wants to improve clarity for its investors.
“Collectively, it has been increasingly difficult to have more direct conversations with Vanguard about their climate strategy. They have been less willing to engage than other asset managers with members of the climate finance community,” she continued.
“Vanguard’s move in the last couple of months suggests it not only lagging but might actually be moving in the opposite direction to where the rest of the industry is trending.”
Waxman added Vanguard did not speak about climate change or climate risk mitigation in a meeting with retail investors earlier last week.
Vanguard did not respond to a request for comment.
Following its decision to leave NZAM, Vanguard said it wants to ensure investors it “speaks independently” on important issues and said the alliance added further confusion about the views of individual investment firms.
In its parting statement from NZAM, Vanguard said: “We have decided to withdraw from NZAM to provide the clarity our investors desire about the role of index funds and how we think about material risks including climate-related risks – and to make clear that Vanguard speaks independently on matters of importance to our investors.”
There are also signs Vanguard’s approach to ESG investing in Europe is paying off.
Morningstar research found the asset manager was the only major ETF issuer to see its European business grow in absolute terms, in part because of its low exposure to ESG.