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Université Laval, Canada

Proxy voting as a shareholder engagement strategy: Does responsible investment really promote corporate sustainability?


This study focuses on proxy voting as a shareholder engagement strategy in responsible investing. It aims at a better understanding of the different challenges faced daily by actors in the decision process when it comes to voting proxies. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 36 practitioners working in the field of responsible investment. The data analysis shows the ineffective implementation of proxy voting guidelines and multiple wrongdoings mentioned by the participants as well as the justifications for failing to substantially integrate sustainability in proxy voting. The lack of compliance with the proxy voting guidelines and the various motivations for shareholder engagement impede the integration of sustainability—and the inclusion of environmental, social, and governance factors—into proxy voting. The results were further analyzed in order to understand the possible causes of these wrongdoings by using elements—opportunity, pressure, and rationalization— that were originally developed in Cressey’s Fraud Triangle.


Julie Bernard is currently a doctoral student (PhD) at the Faculty of Administration Sciences in the department of management at Université Laval, QC.  She studies various issues related to responsible investment such as shareholder engagement (strategies and ethical concerns), management of conflicting stakeholders’ demands and materiality in sustainability reporting. She is a student-member of the Canada Research Chair in Internationalization of Sustainable Development and Organizational Accountability, where her research is in line with the Chair's research theme "Greenwashing prevention and new governance mechanisms". She is also a member of other research groups with similar research interests related to sustainability at Université Laval (e. g. EDS Institute, LiRSE). Ms. Bernard holds a master's degree from the National School of Public Administration (ENAP) and a bachelor's degree from the University of Ottawa.

Julie Bernard

Julie Bernard