April 14, 2003

More investors press banks to report on managing environmental risks

A resolution asking the Toronto-Dominion Bank to report to shareholders on the impacts of social, environmental and ethical issues on its business and what it is doing to manage those risks received 27.1% of the vote at the T-D Bank's recent annual general meeting in London, Ont.

The initiative was put forth by Vancouver-based Real Assets Investment Management, Canada's first investment management firm to focus exclusively on social investing. Similar resolutions won 10.4% of the vote at the Royal Bank of Canada and 29.9% of the vote at the Bank of Montreal earlier this year. Ethical Funds and Meritas Mutual Funds co-filed the resolutions.

"This vote sends a strong message to all Canadian banks, not just Toronto-Dominion" said Deb Abbey, Real Assets' CEO and portfolio manager. "Because they have debt or underwriting relationships with nearly all of the companies in Canada, the banks have become a proxy for the social, environmental and ethical risk inherent in the operations of those companies. Investors want hard information so that we know how well management is coping with these risks," she explained.

A report released by a coalition of institutional investors managing over $4.5 trillion (U.S.), including Merrill Lynch, Swiss RE and the Credit Suisse Group, concluded that climate change would have a major impact on financial performance and could slash values by 40% for some heavy emitters. Banks would suffer a decline of 29% if they were to experience climate-change related loan impairments of 10%.

"You don't need to win 51% to influence management. We're optimistic that Toronto-Dominion Bank will work with us to implement reporting standards that address the concerns of more than a quarter of its shareholders," Abbey said.

More information is available from Deb Abbey, 604/646-5856, E-mail debabbey@realassets.ca, Web site www.realassets.ca.

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