ESG in the new age of activism


One Friday in September, millions of people around the world came out in mass protest, calling on governments to take urgent action on climate change.

It was the surest sign, if any were needed, that we are living in an age where environmental and social governance issues – not just the environment, but such diverse matters as employee retention, boardroom diversity, ethical supply chains and others – have raced to the top of the agenda for governments, individuals and companies alike.

In this session, we consider the challenge that shareholders and investors face in helping companies to make the transition to a sustainable economy and ask, what role are activist investors playing? Are they merely useful players – or the very key to delivering on this agenda? How can boards realise the importance of placing ESG at the heart of what they do – and how can governance professionals help with that?


  • 6.00pm – Registration opens
  • 6.30pm – Welcome and introduction by Chair – Chris Hodge FCG, Policy Advisor, The Chartered Governance Institute
  • 6.35pm – Panel discussion

Panel topics: 
- ESG & corporate purpose
- Activists pushing an ESG agenda
- Battling activism vs working together
- Financially vs sustainability-motivated shareholder activism
- Can activism stimulate progress on sustainability?

Moderator: Chris Hodge FCG, Policy Advisor, The Chartered Governance Institute

Philip Vernardis, VP-Asset Stewardship, SSGA
David Shammai, Cross Border Director, Corporate Governance, Morrow Sodali
Kalina Lazarova, Vice President – Governance & Responsible Investment, BMO Global Asset Management
Carolyn Ferguson FCG, Group Company Secretary, The Go-Ahead Group

  • 7.35pm – Academic keynote – Alex Edmans, Professor of Finance, London Business School
  • 7.50pm – Q&A
  • 8.00pm – Networking drinks
  • 9.00pm – Doors close


Philip Vernardis, VP-Asset Stewardship, State Street Global Advisors (SSGA)

Philip Vernardis is Vice President of the Asset Stewardship Team and is responsible for our proxy voting activities, engagement with investee companies and analysis of corporate governance, strategic and sustainability related issues in the EMEA region. Philip sits on the UK Investment Association's Sustainability and Responsible Investment Committee and is also a member of the UK Corporate Governance Forum.

Before joining State Street Global Advisors, Philip worked as a Corporate Governance Analyst (Manager Level) at Fidelity International responsible for the company's proxy voting activities in a number of European countries and North America. He was also responsible for engaging with directors and executives of portfolio companies, advising active fund managers on corporate governance and for contributing to the company's proxy voting policy development.

Prior to his position at Fidelity, Philip was Deputy Head of Research at Manifest, the proxy voting agency, leading a team of analysts and being responsible for the editing and publication of corporate governance research reports covering Europe, US and Asia.

Philip holds a Master's Degree in Corporate Strategy and Governance from the University of Nottingham Business School and a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management from the Manchester Metropolitan University. He also holds the Investment Management Certificate (IMC) and has passed Level I of the CFA program.

David Shammai, Cross Border Director – Corporate Governance, Morrow Sodali

David Shammai is a Corporate Governance Director, Cross-Border, focusing on the firm’s growing corporate governance activities across Europe/UK, the US and Australia. Prior to joining Morrow Sodali in February 2018, Mr. Shammai was with APG Asset Management, one of the world’s largest fiduciary fund managers, were he served as a senior corporate governance specialist involved in voting, formulation of policy and company engagement with its portfolio of listed companies. Previously, David held senior consulting and corporate positions at KPMG and the Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc. Mr. Shammai is currently a member of the Standing Advisory Group of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. He is a former member of the Corporate Governance Advisory Board of the Cii and is frequent speaker at corporate governance events with a particular interest in the incorporation of sustainability and governance factors in the investment process. David’s academic background is in law and accountancy from Tel Aviv University and the London School of Economics.

Alex Edmans, Professor of Finance, London Business School

Alex Edmans is Professor of Finance at London Business School and Academic Director of the Centre for Corporate Governance. Alex has a BA from Oxford and a PhD from MIT, and was previously a tenured professor at Wharton and an investment banker at Morgan Stanley.

Alex has spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos, testified in the UK Parliament, and given the TED talk “What to Trust in a Post-Truth World” and the TEDx talk “The Social Responsibility of Business”. He is also Mercers School Memorial Professor of Business at Gresham College, currently giving a lecture series on “How Business Can Better Serve Society”, and Managing Editor of the Review of Finance, the leading academic finance journal in Europe. He has appeared on Bloomberg, BBC, CNBC, CNN, ESPN, ITV, Reuters, Sky News and Sky Sports, and written for the Financial Times, Harvard Business Review, and Wall Street Journal.

Chris Hodge FCG, Policy Advisor, The Chartered Governance Institute

For ten years until 2014, Chris was Director of Corporate Governance at the UK’s Financial Reporting Council. He was responsible for developing and promoting the UK Corporate Governance Code – one of the earliest and most influential codes for companies. The practices he introduced include board effectiveness reviews and public reporting on the management of significant risks. Chris was also responsible for introducing the first national stewardship code for investors in the UK in 2010. Similar codes have since been introduced in many other countries.

More recently, Chris has been the FRC’s Strategy Director. In this capacity, he was responsible for developing the FRC’s overall strategy for 2016–19, and overseeing and co-ordinating its external communications, public affairs and international influencing activities.

Chris established, and chaired for eight years until 2015, the European Corporate Governance Codes Network. The Network shares information and good practice among the bodies responsible for codes in 28 European countries, and its advice is regularly sought by the European Commission when developing its proposals for European-level regulation. In his personal capacity, Chris has worked with bodies such as the European Commission, OECD and World Bank in advisory roles, and is a regular presenter and moderator at international conferences.

Carolyn Ferguson FCG, Group Company Secretary, The Go-Ahead Group

Carolyn Ferguson was appointed as Group Company Secretary of The Go-Ahead Group in July 2006. Go-Ahead is one of the UK’s leading public transport providers, employing some 28,000 people and carrying more than one billion passengers each year on its trains and buses.

Carolyn is an experienced Company Secretary with a proven track record of working with Go-Ahead’s Board to deliver best practice corporate governance and compliance, Board development and effectiveness, succession planning and the Board’s culture agenda. She is also responsible for the management of the bus operations pensions schemes, delivering a range of de-risking solutions including defined benefit scheme closure, liability management and investment strategy.

A Fellow of The Chartered Governance Institute, Carolyn is also a qualified and experienced coach and mentor.

Kalina Lazarova, Vice President – Governance & Responsible Investment, BMO Global Asset Management

Kalina is a Director in BMO Global Asset Management’s Responsible Investment team which she joined in 2014 (while still F&C Investments). She has 15 years’ experience in corporate governance and responsible investment having previously worked at GES (now Sustainalytics), Fidelity International and PIRC. Kalina heads the Responsible Investment team’s work on corporate governance and oversees stewardship activities, including corporate governance engagement and proxy voting, as well as supporting integration of ESG factors into BMO’s investment process for different strategies. Kalina has an MSc in Regulation from the London School of Economics, and a postgraduate certificate in Finance from Birkbeck. She is bilingual in English and Bulgarian.

Booking information

Date: Wednesday 6 November 2019

Timing: 6.00 - 9.00pm

Location: Prince Phillip House, 3 Carlton House Terrace, St. James's, London SW1Y 5DG

Price: Free

Register now

Please note that this is an event for those working in FTSE 350 companies only. We reserve the right to add those registered to the waiting list if they do not meet the eligibility criteria for this particular event. 


This CPD event is possible thanks to the sponsorship of Morrow Sodali

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