FOLLOWING extensive consultation with its five million policyholders, Co-operative Insurance Society has became the first insurance company in the world to launch an Ethical Engagement Policy that will act as its touchstone for all future shareholder activism and campaigning.
Customers have given CIS an overwhelming mandate to engage with companies on a broad and challenging ethical agenda that they would expect businesses to address.
CIS, which has funds under management of more than £ 20 billion, will lobby business at every opportunity to improve their ethical and environmental performance, whilst those companies that pro-actively adopt commendable initiatives will be publicly applauded.
Launching the CIS Ethical Engagement Policy, David Anderson, the newly appointed Chief Executive of Co-operative Financial Services, said: "This is a case of ethics in action. Like the Co-operative Bank, CIS now has an ethical mandate from its customers.
"For the first time and in the best traditions of a co-operative, individual policyholders have had their say, so there is now a direct link between an individual customer and the engagement policy of a major institutional investor.
"From now on we will make our customers' views known at annual general meetings and other engagement opportunities and we will use our position as a major shareholder to put pressure on companies in order to bring about change where necessary.
"I am confident that this will contribute to new standards being set in socially responsible investment which other institutional investors will increasingly wish to follow."
The new policy, which had the backing of 98 per cent of customers who responded to a detailed questionnaire, will guide CIS on such issues as human rights, the arms trade, environmental impact, labour standards, animal welfare and corporate governance.