A group of institutional investors, led by Toronto-based NEI Investments and Montreal-based Addenda Capital, is calling for investors to affirm their commitment to gender diversity on boards.

Those who sign the Voting for Diversity Canadian Investor Statement of Voting Intentions commit to “using their voting rights to withhold votes from relevant director candidates at Canadian boards that lack gender diversity,” and alerting companies to where “the absence of diversity may impact or has impacted director voting decisions, through transparent reporting of voting guidelines or direct company engagement.”

Rosa van den Beemt, senior ESG analyst at NEI, and chair of the workstream responsible for developing the statement, noted in a statement that proxy voting is one of the more direct tools investors have to encourage change on boards.

“I think the statement sends a clear message to Canadian companies about investors’ expectations on board diversity,” she said.

The statement was developed by a workstream of the Toronto RI Working Group, a Canadian coalition of responsible investment professionals.