As You Sow...

What's On The Minds of America's Shareholders?

Climate, Politics and Women Top Shareholder Issues for Proxy Season 2018

Corporate Annual Meetings Will Reflect Opioid Crisis, Gun Laws, Board Diversity and More

OAKLAND, Calif., March 8, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Proxy Preview 2018, released today by As You Sow, the Sustainable Investments Institute (Si2), and Proxy Impact, offers a comprehensive look at more than 400 shareholder resolutions filed on environmental, social and sustainable governance (ESG) issues. The report shows how investors continue to seek accountability on climate change risk and corporate political spending, but have growing concerns regarding the treatment of women. Other key issues include gun laws, the opioid crisis, fake news and human trafficking.

Investors and companies are proactively discussing disclosure and reporting to shareholders even as Congress pushes for more deregulation and less corporate transparency. Early investor votes already suggest investors will continue strong support evinced last year, but action at the Securities and Exchange Commission is raising some red flags.

Key report findings include:

The report covers the 330 shareholder resolutions now pending for votes, alongside at least 30 blocked from consideration by company challenges at the SEC and 62 withdrawn by proponents, often after company accords that continue apace.

80 resolutions ask companies to disclose political activity spending and 80 more ask companies to address climate change risks and explain more about how they will adapt to a carbon-constrained world. Companies face pressure given the legacy of 2017 majority votes on climate risk at ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum.

Demands for equal treatment for women are reflected in 70 resolutions about fair treatment and fair pay at work, in addition to three dozen more seeking boards that are less “pale, male and stale.”

Investors and companies are proactively discussing disclosure and reporting to shareholders even as Congress pushes for more deregulation and less corporate transparency

More than 50 resolutions focus on board oversight, sustainability reporting and linking ESG issues to executive compensation.

Companies answer to their investors, not politicians

Heidi Welsh, executive director, Si2 and co-author of Proxy Preview 2018, said, “The chasm between growing investor disclosure expectations and shrinking environmental protections emerging from Washington is widening, but companies answer to their investors, not politicians. 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.”

“This should be a pivotal year for shareholders,” said Michael Passoff, CEO of Proxy Impact and co-author of Proxy Preview 2018. “Shareholders are looking to build on last year’s unprecedented support from some of the world’s largest mutual funds, while simultaneously fighting off governmental efforts to suppress shareholder rights.”

“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 materials issues that affect all of our futures,” said Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow. “Proxy Preview highlights these investor voices that our government wants to silence.”

As You Sow is a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies.

Proxy Impact provides shareholder engagement and proxy voting services that promote sustainable and responsible business practices.

The Sustainable Investments Institute (Si2) provides impartial analysis to help institutions make informed, independent choices on social and environmental shareholder proposals.