Company Engagement Case Study

Smurfit Kappa

Issue: Gender diversity

WHEB strongly supports gender diversity in investee companies and has a policy of voting against the Chairman of the Nominations Committee on company boards which are composed of <25% of either gender.

Objective

In 2017, Smurfit Kappa’s Board of Directors had 12 members of which just 2 were female. Our objective with our engagement was to convince the company’s Nominations Committee to increase the proportion of women on the Smurfit Kappa Board of Directors.

Scope and process

At Smurfit Kappa’s 2017 Annual General Meeting, the Chairman of the Nominations Committee Thomas Brodin was not up for re-election. Therefore, at the meeting, we voted against the reappointment of the Chairman Liam O’Mahony who is one of the other four members of the Committee. We then wrote to Mr O’Mahony to explain why we had chosen to vote against his re-election and to encourage the company to increase the proportion of women on the board.

Outcome: Unsuccessful

So far we have not had any response from Smurfit Kappa to our letter. While several changes have been made to the board of directors in the subsequent period, the proportion of women on the board remained unchanged. Separately Smurfit Kappa was named in the press as one of the laggards within the FTSE 100 on gender diversity . We hope that the company will respond to this wider investor pressure to change its board structure in advance of the 2019 Annual General Meeting. We will in any case be writing to the company in 2018 to make these points again.