Do institutional investors engage with companies on corporate externalities such as greenhouse gas emissions? And if so, why? We study voting at shareholder meetings by two emblematic global investors: BlackRock, a major asset manager, and the Norway Fund, a responsible sovereign wealth fund. Our data cover 2014 and include the two institutions’ votes on 35,382 resolutions at 2,796 corporations across the world. Both of these so-called universal owners oppose management significantly more often on externality than on financial issues.
The Norway Fund is more active on shareholder resolutions concerning externalities related to environmental and social issues rather than governance issues. The difference between the two investors’ voting behavior is larger when we focus on resolutions related to greenhouse gas emissions, a clearly identified externality. Overall, universal ownership (see, e.g., Monks and Minow, 1995) and, more importantly, delegated philanthropy (see, e.g., Benabou and Tirole, 2010) both appear to provide incentives for institutional investors to combat negative externalities generated by firms.