Published: Oct. 26, 2023

GSC Travelers AGM 2023"Indigenous Peoples’ voices, stories, and the business case for their rights were heard by allies, companies, policymakers, and the media. Companies that do not respect Indigenous rights can expect to hear from Indigenous leaders again at AGMs in 2024 and into the future."Indigenous Peoples' Rights and Participation in 2023 AGM Proposals

Indigenous leaders have gathered significant investor support to bring their concerns directly to shareholders when companies operate without a social license to operate. In 2023, Indigenous Peoples attended the annual general meeting (AGM) of numerous companies to discuss impacts on their lands, territories, and resources, and twelve shareholder proposals related to the rights of Indigenous Peoples were filed with companies in the finance, insurance and energy sectors in the U.S. and Canada.

Indigenous Peoples' Rights and Participation in 2023 AGM Proposals, a report published by First Peoples Worldwide with support from the Investors & Indigenous Peoples Working Group, analyzes these proposals, Indigenous Peoples priorities for companies, and the increasing investor attention and expectations regarding Indigenous Rights Risk.

Proposals to Bank of Montreal (BOM), Chubb, Citigroup, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), The Hartford, TD Bank and Wells Fargo addressed Indigenous Peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Chubb and The Hartford also received proposals that called for Indigenous Rights Risk as part of human rights frameworks. And proposals asking for racial equity audits that include impact on Indigenous Peoples were delivered to BOM, CIBC, RBC and Travelers.

"Many proposals were part of years-long advocacy by Indigenous Peoples for banks, insurers, and other financial services companies to withdraw their support for projects that proceeded without their FPIC", says the report.

Half of the proposals went to a vote of shareholders, meeting the threshold to be proposed again in 2024. The other half were withdrawn, several of which after discussions with Indigenous Peoples and investors, leading to commitments to change corporate policy or practice. 

"We must be involved in all decisions where there are impacts to our land, animals, and communities. We call on Chubb and all companies to respect our rights, including our right to free, prior, and informed consent."Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director, Gwich'in Steering Committee (via)

Several themes emerge from the report:

  1. Indigenous Peoples' participation in shareholder engagement is increasing from past years; 
  2. Shareholders are increasingly aligning with Indigenous Peoples where there are impacts and material risk from failure to scope for and operationalize FPIC; and
  3. Company policy on Indigenous Rights Risk that does not meet minimum standards set forth in the UNDRIP fails to provide the necessary due diligence to protect the company and its shareholders. 

While most proposals and engagements resulted from impacts from fossil fuel development through finance and insurance underwriting, shareholder attention is growing in other sectors as well, "particularly from agriculture and mineral mining for renewable energy technologies, and appropriation of Indigenous language and culture without clear community ties," notes the report.

Participation of Indigenous Peoples is critical in project development and implementation where impacts exist or may occur. Solutions can be found to address Indigenous Rights Risk when companies and concerned shareholders meet with Indigenous Peoples. As the report concludes, companies that do not respect Indigenous Peoples' rights will hear from Indigenous leaders into the future.

Download the PDF.

Photo: Members of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, including youth council members, traveled to Hartford, CT for the 2023 Travelers AGM. Photo courtesy of the Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign via.