In 2020 the pandemic created a divergence in practices as companies took their annual shareholder meetings virtual. In many cases shareholder-board interactions diminished and shareholder rights were eroded. However, technological advances mean that virtual or hybrid meetings can support and broaden shareholder participation if they are conducted well. For example, shareholders no longer need to travel long distances to put questions to board members in person.
We want to see annual meetings protected as an important mechanism of stewardship, board-shareholder engagement, and board accountability. It is vital that good practice standards, fairness, order, integrity, and shareholder rights are upheld across markets. This transparency and accountability benefits stakeholders far beyond the attending shareholders.
Reflecting on our experiences and observations in 2020, we set out some good practice principles that cover virtual, hybrid and physical meetings and apply to most countries. These aim to maximise the value of the meeting for both company and shareholder.
This article appears in our Q1 2021 Public Engagement Report.