Shareholder activism an important tool in making positive changes. It is one of the three strategies used in socially responsible investing (SRI). It involves using your rights as a shareholder to make changes. You can address environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues.
There are several ways a shareholder can make changes.
- Vote of proxies. All shareholders may vote on annual meeting agenda items. If you do not attend the meeting you can vote by mail.
- Write letters. As a shareholder (owner) you can write letters to the company’s Investor Relations Departments.
- File resolutions. Shareholders may petition companies for annual meeting agendas when they have an investment of at least $2,000.
- Have in-person meetings/dialogues.
- Divest – sell your shares. By selling your shares you to release any influence in the company but divesting does send a message.
If you do not vote as an investor, you are not influencing management. They can do what they want.
Mutual funds that do not have socially responsible objectives (such as: Fidelity, Vanguard, American Funds, Franklin Templeton, T Rowe Price, Columbia Management) and exchange traded funds do not vote on issues that address social, ethical, political and governance issues.
Because so few shareholders vote, many ESG shareholder resolutions can pass with such a small percentage, because many investors do not vote.
As an owner of individual shares of stock or as an investor of an SRI mutual fund that share your values.
Where to Get Proxy Voting Information
There are some good organizations that can make proxy voting easier.
- As You Sow – http://www.asyousow.org/
- Sustainable Investment Institute – http://www.siinstitute.org/
- Proxy Impact – http://proxyimpact.com/
- Corporate Accountability International – https://www.stopcorporateabuse.org/
- Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility – http://www.iccr.org
Active Mutual Funds
SRI mutual funds vary greatly as to how active they are with corporate engagement. Most vote their proxies, some engage with corporations and few still file shareholder resolutions.
Examples of Engagement
Calvert Investments – http://www.calvert.com/resources/shareholder-advocacy – shows their shareholder advocacy including: companies engaged, letters sent, phone calls, meeting, resolutions and public policy initiatives. They have a list of their proxies voted and resolutions. Here is a list of come of their 2016 resolutions:
|Discovery Communications||Board Diversity||Vote pending|
|Bed Bath & Beyond||Board oversight of sustainability||Successfully withdrawn||Bed Bath and Beyond will amend its governance documents to reflect the Board of Directors’ oversight of environmental and social risks. Calvert will continue dialogue on human rights issues with the company.|
|Time Warner, Inc||Children’s nutrition||Withdrawn for further dialogue|
|HD Supply||Greenhouse gas emissions reductions||Vote pending|
|Dillard’s Inc.||Greenhouse gas emissions reductions||Successfully withdrawn||Dillard’s will report to the CDP 2016 climate survey.|
|The Kroger Company||Human rights risk assessment|
|Netflix, Inc.||Indigenous Peoples Rights||Lost SEC challenge|
|Chiptole Mexican Grill, Inc.||Minimum wage reform||Vote pending|
|Pinnacle West Capital Corp||Political influence||Vote pending|
|Amgen Inc.||Renewable Energy||Successfully withdrawn||Amgen will disclose current and future renewable energy projects in its Sustainability Report, along with an asessment of next steps on renewable energy.|
|Amazon.com||Sustainability reporting||Vote pending|
|HealthSouth||Sustainability reporting||Successfully withdrawn||HealthSouth established an interdpeartmental sustainability panel to oversee disclosure of the company’s sustainability information. The company will disclose its efforts on sustainability.|
|Sanderson Farms, Inc.||Water policy||Vote||27% support|
|Dean Foods||Water risk||Successfully withdrawn||Dean Foods will report on water risk and water risk management in its own operations and in its supply chain.|
|Liberty Media Corp.||Sustainability reporting||Vote pending|
Domini Social Investments – https://www.domini.com/investing-for-impact/impact-updates – presents social impact updates, shareholder resolutions and activism approach. Some of the 2015 resolutions include:
|AT&T||Disclosure of Indirect Political Contributions||26%|
|Avon Products||Palm Oil Sourcing||Agreement Reached|
|Chipotle Mexican Grill||Sustainability Reporting||31%|
|Kraft Foods Group||Deforestation||30%|
|Lowe’s Companies||Sales of Pesticides Linked to Honeybee Declines||Agreement Reached|
|MeadWestvaco||Political Contributions Disclosure||Agreement Reached|
|Verizon Communications||Disclosure of Indirect Political Contributions||32%|
|Energen||Methane Emissions Reporting||29%|
|Southwestern Energy||Methane Emissions Reporting||Agreement Reached|
|United Parcel Service||Political Lobbying Disclosure||16%|
Trillium Asset Management (managers for Portfolio 21 and Green Century) – http://www.trilliuminvest.com/approach-to-sri/ – presents: integration, ESG criteria, advocacy & policy, shareholder proposal, community investment impact. The following are some of their 2016 shareholder proposals:
- Smuckers – Renewable Energy & Human Rights (2016) Outcome: Pending
- Men’s Wearhouse – Social (2016) Outcome: Pending
- Mastercard, Inc – Emissions and Climate (2016)* Outcome: Pending
- Stifel Financial – Board / Executive Diversity (2016) Outcome: Pending
- Citrix Systems – Workplace Diversity (2016) Outcome: Successfully withdrawn after the company committed to several initiatives which include reporting annual EEO-1 workforce diversity data: publishing details, including oversight, of its diversity and inclusion programs, and setting time-bound diversity and inclusion goals by December, 2016.
- Panera Bread Company – Social (2016) Outcome: Successfully withdrawn following a commitment from the company to conduct a review of employee benefits, compensation and wages
- Amgen – Renewable Energy (2016) Outcome: Successfully withdrawn following a commitment from the company to include greater disclosure of current and future renewable energy projects in its Environmental Sustainability Report.
- Akamai Technologies – Renewable Energy (2016) Outcome: Pending
- TJX Companies – Social (2016) Outcome: Omitted by SEC
- Southwestern Energy – Workplace Diversity (2016) Outcome: Successfully withdrawn following the company’s amendment to its EEO policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
- Union Pacific – Board / Executive Diversity (2016) Outcome: Successfully withdrawn following the company’s commitment to amend its corporate governance documents to include a policy to actively seek out highly qualified women and individuals from minority groups for consideration as nominees to the Board
- Church & Dwight Co. – Environmental Reporting / Disclosure (2016) Outcome: Successfully withdrawn subject to the company’s commitment to responsibly source palm oil materials that are free of deforestation and human rights impacts.
- WhiteWave Foods – (2016) Outcome: Successfully withdrawn subject to the company’s commitment to sustainably and responsibly source palm oil.
- PepsiCo – Environmental Reporting / Disclosure (2016) Outcome: Pending
- EOG Resources – Emissions and Climate (2016) Outcome: Successfully withdrawn subject to the company’s commitment to disclose its methane emissions rate, its LDAR program, and to include methane issues in its 2016 proxy materials.
- Nordstrom – Workplace: Health and Safety (2016) Outcome: Successfully withdrawn following the company’s commitment to disclose the progress it has made to curtail human rights violations in its supply chain by the end of the second quarter of 2016.
- Discovery Communications – Board / Executive Diversity (2016) Outcome: Pending
- Verizon – Renewable Energy (2016) Outcome: Pending
- Citigroup – Workplace: Labor-Management Relations (2016) Outcome: Pending
- Marathon Petroleum Corp – Political / Lobbying Spending (2016) Outcome: The proposal was withdrawn by Trillium for technical reasons
- Wells Fargo – Political / Lobbying Spending (2016) Outcome: Pending
- PPG – Executive Compensation (2016) Outcome: Successfully withdrawn following the company’s commitment to disclose sustainability linkage to annual executive performance and incentive compensation reviews in its 2016 proxy statement.
- AT&T – Renewable Energy (2016) Outcome: Trillium withdrew our proposal following AT&T’s announcement of new renewable energy goals; which coincidentally happened one day after we filed the proposal.
- Spectra Energy – Political / Lobbying Spending (2016) Outcome: Pending
Parnassus Investments – https://www.parnassus.com/how-we-invest/responsible-investment-approach – shows their community development investing and proxy voting.
Pax World Investments – https://paxworld.com/sustainable-investing/#proxy – lists their strategy of engagement and proxy voting. They engage companies on issues such as: board diversification, climate change, disclosure of lobbying policies and practices, sustainability reporting and women’s empowerment principles.