As You Sow, the Sustainable Investments Institute and Proxy Impact have published an updated Proxy Preview report for 2018. The report offers a comprehensive look at more than 400 shareholder resolutions filed on environmental, social and sustainable governance (ESG) issues. It shows how investors continue to seek accountability about climate change risk and corporate political spending, while also raising questions on other critical issues such as the gender pay gap, fake news, the opioid crisis and gun laws.
Investors and companies are proactively engaging on more disclosure and reporting to shareholders even as the government pushes for deregulation and reduced corporate transparency. Early investor votes already suggest investors will continue strong support demonstrated last year, but action at the Securities and Exchange Commission is raising some red flags.
“The chasm between growing investor disclosure expectations and shrinking environmental protections emerging from Washington is widening, but companies answer to their investors, not politicians,” said Heidi Welsh, Si2 Executive Director and co-author of Proxy Preview 2018.
“While market moving mutual funds like Blackrock and Vanguard want companies to tell more, the SEC seems to be tightening up its rules for what investors can consider.”
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Of the 400 resolutions filed last year, 80 ask companies to address climate change and explain how they will adapt to a carbon-constrained world. Majority votes on climate risk at ExxonMobil and Occidental in 2017 have set a new precedent, and, as a result, companies are increasingly facing pressure from investors — and the wider public — to be more transparent.
Proxy Preview 2018 provides investors with expert analysis on ways corporate clean energy goals are leading the way to a low-carbon economy, how managing methane will protect climate and reduce investor risk and how to engage with the 100 biggest greenhouse gas emitters.
An additional 80 resolutions ask companies to disclose political influence spending, while a further 70 demand gender equality, calling on companies to close the gender pay gap and diversify their boards.
“As government protections for our environment have been systematically eliminated and the social safety net shredded, we are seeing new and established investor coalitions step into the breach and raise the stakes for companies and their boards to grapple with these material issues that affect all of our futures,” he said. “Proxy Preview highlights these investor voices that our government wants to silence.”