Abortion and other ESG issues rise up the AGM agenda


With the end of the annual meeting season of American companies at the end of June, this year’s action will surely be remembered for Carl Iken’s embrace of environmental, social and governmental activism.

Icahn, the billionaire activist investor whose approach to business is the one who announced the making of the film Wall StreetOpen in a conference room Stop McDonald’s From a source of pork from farms that cages sow in small crates, phrase He was agitated by “unnecessary cruelty.”

But unlike the conference room of the No. 1 engine victory Winning support for the appointment of exxonMobil directors in 2021 to challenge the Icahn climate change group’s approach Lost his fight at McDonald’s.

For corporate conference rooms reflecting the year 2022, it would be wrong to assume that the defeat heralded a major decline in ESG-style activism despite a growing push of “capitalism has awakened”.

In fact, supporters of environmental and social issues — often unknown grinders that fight companies at their annual meetings year after year — have achieved victories that boards need to recognize and appreciate before the next wave of campaigns arrives.

Take, for example, a campaign for shareholders Prevent companies from including confidentiality agreements In employment contracts. Following California law banning certain concealment clauses, shareholder petitions have asked companies to consider expanding state requirements nationwide.

These proposals have won the support of most shareholders voting for Apple, IBM and Twitter this year. Other companies – Salesforce, Expensify, Twilio and Microsoft – have said they will stop or suspend the use of concealment clauses, according to Ifeoma Ozoma, Who violated a confidentiality agreement with Pinterest. She led this campaign and won support even though this is the first year shareholders have voted on the issue.

Petitions for corporate jobs were also successful in 2022. Tulipshare, a London-based activist investment platform, won a strong show on Amazon. 44% of the shares supported an independent audit of the working conditions in the warehouse – not really a majority, but a large enough vote count to demand the attention of the board members.

In the meantime, Blackrock said She voted for a critique of racial equality in Google’s parent alphabet. Although Google has good diversification, capital and inclusion practices, a third-party audit will help shareholders track progress, Blackrock said.

Criticism petitions – for social and environmental reasons alike – are emerging as a new tactic that has proven successful in 2022, said William Mestriana, a partner at the Covington law firm. “We may see future supportive efforts for such proposals for other types of issues,” he said.

At an ExxonMobil meeting in May, Proposal The call for criticism of the company’s financial vulnerability to climate change was supported by more than half of the voting shareholders. Decision in Travelles, Insurance Provider, to Request a Report on Measuring and Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Won 55 percent support.

Elsewhere, however, some of the proposals for climate change this year have been ignored. Environmental shareholders have made requests to six of the largest U.S. banks and asked them to curb loans and underwriting for the development of new fossil fuels.

This offer at Goldman Sachs won only 11 percent support. Vanguard, which Sided with Goldman in voting against this proposalEnvironmentalists are said to be overcoming the bank and that it has revealed progress towards zero zero carbon emissions.

None of the similar climate change proposals in the other five banks has received significant shareholder support. This suggests that asking companies for more information (as in auditing) instead of pushing them to do something, the huge asset managers will look more positively. Black stone said It will not support petitions for climate change that have been too extreme or too binding.

The conference room fights will calm down in the summer before the first volleys for the 2023 season meetings are launched later this year. One topic that is going to be a hot topic for board members next year is abortions.

Already, shareholders have pushed a handful of companies to say more about costs and risks to their business as a result of greater restrictions on abortions. Shareholder offers that required more such information received 30% support from shareholders at TJ Maxx, a retailer, and Loe’s, a home remodeling chain.

For abortion shareholder offers, keep an eye out for Rhia Ventures – a nonprofit that has worked with institutional investors to pressure companies on their approach to abortion.

Ikan, with decades of harassment in his boardroom, is understandably appealing to headlines and the attention of board members. But companies will also have to listen to companies like Rhia Ventures, Tulipshare and a host of religious organizations – groups that deal with environmental and human rights companies.


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