What mutual fund investors say they expect from fund managers and how those managers invest aren't always in synch, according to a report released by Ceres, an environmentally minded coalition of financial and public interest groups.
Seven out of every 10, or 71% of the 845 U.S. investors surveyed by the Civil Society Institute on behalf of Ceres, said that they wanted their mutual funds to support shareholder resolutions aimed at curbing global warming. However, of the 100 largest mutual funds, none supported any of 33 different global warming resolutions that appeared on U.S. proxies last year, according to the report.
"Mutual fund companies and their investors are completely at odds today on the topic of global warming," said Pam Solo, president of the Civil Society Institute.
Seven of 10 mutual fund investors surveyed also expect the funds in which they invest to monitor companies reputed to contribute to the pollution that causes global warming.
"Mutual funds are the critical missing link in the push for better corporate disclosure about climate risks," said Ceres President Mindy S. Lubber.
Lubber added that mutual fund companies are ignoring the long-term adverse effects of climate change on businesses, such as increased insurance claims, as well as missing out on potential opportunities, such as an increase demand for "green" technology.
Institutional investors, such as public pension funds, have used their proxy votes to pressure companies to alter corporate policies for years.
It's time mutual funds join the campaign, said Alisa Gravitz, executive director of Co-op America, a non-profit consumer education group. Investors should focus on the country's three largest mutual fund families, Vanguard, American Funds and Fidelity, which collectively control more than $1 trillion in assets, Gravitz said. All three have proxy-voting guidelines, which explicitly require that fund managers abstain from environmentally oriented resolutions.
"Getting these funds to vote in favor of resolutions to address global warming would make a tremendous difference for investors and the environment," Gravitz said.