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This month, shareholder advocacy organization As You Sow released its 10th annual Proxy Preview report, detailing the record-breaking 433 social and environmental shareholder resolutions filed so far this proxy season, with political spending and climate change driving most of the activity.
“This year we have once again broken the record on the number of resolutions filed, and this year’s proponents have escalated the connection of critical issues to the boards of directors by demanding that shareholders be enabled to nominate board candidates and continue to link executive pay with sustainability,” said As You Sow CEO Andrew Behar. “This is a systemic critique, pointing out how the board must accept responsibility for excessive political spending, inadequate energy policy, our changing climate, toxic hazards and human rights abuses.”
Proxy Preview documents investors’ demand for more disclosure of corporate political spending before and after elections; these resolutions account for over a quarter of the total. Proposals on climate change, energy and their related risks — as well as interconnected questions about corporate sustainability strategies and transparency — have also grown, and account for nearly 40 percent of the 433 resolutions filed to date. Human rights and diversity on boards and in the workplace make up most of the rest.
“The flood of corporate political activity proposals continues unabated, and not just about elections,” said Heidi Welsh, executive director of the Sustainable Investments Institute (Si2) and co-author of the report. “A broad coalition of investors wants companies to tell stockholders and the public more about so-called ‘dark money’ spent both in campaigns and on lobbying by groups that use corporate money and don’t say where it comes from,” added Welsh.
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Resolutions on climate change and environmental issues are the largest category of proposals filed. “Shareholders are actively looking to manage climate risks,” says Michael Passoff, CEO of Proxy Impact and co-author of the report. “Most of the climate resolutions ask companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or to report on the risks from climate change on business operations. Investors in fossil fuel companies are especially concerned about how their businesses can succeed in a low-carbon economy. There is a growing alarm about the inevitability of stranded carbon assets and the potential of a carbon bubble.”
Proxy Preview 2015 is the 11th edition of the report hailed by the Chicago Tribune as the “Bible for socially progressive foundations, religious groups, pension funds, and tax-exempt organization.” The report assesses shareholder resolutions, how companies are responding, and policy changes affecting the proposals at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Highlights of the 2015 Shareholder Resolutions:
In other As You Sow news, the organization recently convinced Dunkin Donuts to stop using nanomaterials in its donuts, and released a report on the leaders and laggards in packaging recyclability, pushing the food and beverage industry to improve their materials and protocols.
Published Mar 10, 2015 8pm EDT / 5pm PDT / 12am GMT / 1am CET