AXA fund arm toughens stance on climate, directors ahead of AGM season

* AXA IM may vote against board if ESG management lacking

* Policy will target U.S., UK ethnic diversity laggards

* Firm will vote against pay policy if no or weak ESG targets

By Simon Jessop

LONDON, April 20 (Reuters) - French insurer AXA's AXAF.PA fund arm plans to take a tougher stance on company directors as part of a new policy on environmental and social issues that will guide its voting at company annual general meetings, it said on Thursday.

The move by AXA Investment Managers, which oversees around 887 billion euros ($964.79 billion) in assets, comes as boards are increasingly being challenged over their response to issues such as climate change and diversity.

From this year, AXA IM said it wants board directors to have a proven track record of managing environmental and social issues to drive value, and would vote against board members' re-election if it felt they were lacking.

It would also vote against the re-election of the leadership team at any large-cap company in the United States and Britain with no ethnic representation on the board.

"Including these new ESG requirements within our voting policy will ensure we allocate capital to companies that have clear ESG commitments and targets," said Clemence Humeau, head of responsible investment coordination and governance at AXA IM.

The firm said all senior board members must have clear and relevant links to environmental, social and governance metrics in their bonus or long-term incentive plans, and that it would vote against the pay policy if a company chose not to do so.

On climate change, companies in key sectors must have short-, mid- and long-term carbon emissions reduction targets linked to executive pay, or face votes against the company management, it said.

To help better assess company performance on sustainability issues, AXA IM said it also wanted to see companies use international frameworks to present the information, and provide the historical context with which to compare performance.

If a company chose not to do so, AXA IM said it would vote against approving the accounts.

($1 = 0.9194 euros)
Reporting by Simon Jessop; Editing by Jan Harvey

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