Trust Waikato becomes first Community Trust to join Stewardship Code

May 13, 2024

3 min read

Trust Waikato has become the first Community Trust to sign up to the Aotearoa New Zealand Stewardship Code, recognising stewardship as a crucial part of its responsible investment activities.

The Stewardship Code is a framework to help investors use their influence to steer the companies they own through critical ESG issues. While managers of most of New Zealand’s assets under management have already signed up to the Code, fewer asset owners have joined.

Trust Waikato’s Finance and Investment Manager, Maggie Zhang, says signing up to the Stewardship Code is a crucial part of their responsible investment work.

“Our commitment to the Stewardship Code will challenge us to apply best practice for our investment strategy.”

Maggie Zhang says while Trust Waikato already encourages its managers to incorporate stewardship activities, it recognises the need to walk the talk.

“We want to take the best approach to investment so we can preserve long-term value for current and future generations. Joining up has also provided a support network to collaborate and drive change.”
Maggie Zhang says Trust Waikato is committed to learning and developing their stewardship framework by applying the Code.

“Collectively we can create real world change alongside the other signatories. Despite being a smaller investor, we have signed up to the Code to promote sound investing and governance through the adoption of practices that lead to sustainable outcomes for our environment, society, and economy.”

The UK Stewardship Code, regarded as the world’s leading Code, has over 250 signatories managing over 43 trillion pounds.

Code Secretariat Director, Jackson Rowland, says while more than 20% of these UK Signatories are asset owners, in New Zealand asset owners are more hesitant to sign up. This is generally driven by concerns about resourcing and whether asset managers signing up is enough.

Maggie Zhang acknowledges that significant stewardship work has already been undertaken with Trust Waikato’s fund managers. However, Trust Waikato is ultimately accountable for achieving the goal of effective stewardship, and applying the Code demonstrates its importance to the communities they serve.

In terms of resourcing, Jackson Rowland says, “The Code is a comply or explain Code, recognising the early stage of stewardship activity in the NZ market. Signatories are welcome to explain their non-compliance with the Code where applicable. There are also regular events for signatories to help build their stewardship capability.”

“Like many investors, Trust Waikato also has limited capacity and is very strategic about how it uses this. They recognise that stewardship does not need to be resource intensive, and is a crucial part of their responsible investment strategy regardless,” he continues.

Trust Waikato joins the NZ Super Fund as the other Asset Owner already signed up to the Code.

Head of Responsible Investment Anne-Maree O’Connor says the NZ Super Fund supported the development of the Aotearoa New Zealand Stewardship Code because it believes an industry-led code will encourage shareholders to engage with companies on governance and sustainable development, to be considered with their voting and bring transparency to the practice of stewardship.

“Active ownership of assets by investors contributes to the healthy functioning of the domestic market, improves capital flows and will help to develop a more sustainable financial system,” she says.

To learn more about the Code visit

Investment News New Zealand also wrote a piece on Trust Waikato becoming the first Community Trust to join the Aotearoa New Zealand Stewardship code.