Hermes wants Rio Tinto to dig deeper on diversity and is staging a protest vote against its chairman Jan du Plessis

Rebecca Smith
Hermes is voting against the re-election of Rio chairman Jan du Plessis
Hermes is voting against the re-election of Rio chairman Jan du Plessis (Source: Getty)

Hermes Investment Management is so unimpressed with Rio Tinto's progress when it comes to boardroom diversity that the fund manager is staging a protest vote.

At the FTSE 100 firm's annual general meeting (AGM) tomorrow, Hermes will be voting against the re-election Rio's chairman Jan du Plessis in protest against the company's stalling progress on boardroom diversity.

It is targeting du Plessis as he is chair of the group's nomination committee.

Rio has two women on its board, with three male non-executive directors being appointed this year, and Hermes hasn't been won over by its plans to shake-up the composition of its boardroom.

The company said:

Due to the lack of diversity and a credible plan to address this imperative issue, and consistent with our voting policy, Hermes EOS recommends voting against the re-election of Jan du Plessis in his capacity as chair of the nominations committee.

The vote will be a gesture as du Plessis is due to retire from the mining company shortly, and will take over from Sir Mike Rake as chair of BT Group in November.

Rio is looking for shareholder approval for three new non-exec directors at its AGM tomorrow.

Hermes also warned as an issue "of great importance", diversity will be a key area of focus for the firm in its voting activity throughout the AGM season.

"We have taken the decision to vote against the re-election of the chairs of the nominations committees of FTSE 100 companies if their boards have fallen significantly short of the target that 25 per cent of directors are women by 2015 and they are unable to demonstrate credible plans to achieve the 2020 target of 33 per cent," Hermes director Bruce Duguid said.

With the appointment of three male non-executive directors and two out of the 12 Rio Tinto board directors being women, Hermes noted this fell "significantly short" of the 25 per cent target. It wants a more serious commitment to reaching the 33 per cent target by 2020.

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