Balfour Beatty shareholders’ board diversity protest vote

Philip Aiken

A group of Balfour Beatty shareholders has registered its unhappiness with the lack of diversity on the company’s board by voting against the reappointment of one of its directors.

Some 22% of votes were opposed to the reappointment of Philip Aiken, results from Balfour Beatty’s AGM last week showed.

The unusually large number of opposing votes came after Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), which provides voting advice to investors, noted in a report that women comprise less than 33% of the board at Balfour Beatty. Currently there are six men and two women on the company’s board.

That means that the contractor is falling short of the target set by the Hampton-Alexander review, an independent, business-led initiative supported by government to increased the representation of women in senior leadership positions and on boards of FTSE 350 companies, which ran from 2016-20.

In its report, ISS said: “The nomination committee states it will aim to enhance the diversity of its board through ongoing succession planning, but falls short of making a public commitment to meeting the target set by the Hampton-Alexander Review. In light of the issues raised with regard to diversity, a vote against the re-election of Philip Aiken is warranted as chair of the nomination committee.”

The 78% of votes in favour of Aiken meant that there was still enough support to pass the resolution to reappoint him.

In its 2020 annual report, published earlier this year, Balfour Beatty said: “The board recognises that it does not currently meet the target set by the Hampton-Alexander Review and will aim to enhance the diversity of its board through ongoing succession planning. The board further acknowledges the Parker Review directing that boards of FTSE 250 companies should have at least one director from an ethnic minority background by 2024 and also aims to address this through future succession planning.”

Balfour Beatty has been contacted for comment.

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