Judging by the proxy proposals submitted by company shareholders so far this year, corporate political activity and climate change remain the key concerns for investors, according to The Proxy Preview released Tuesday.
The report focuses on 370 proposals that deal with environmental and sustainable governance issues for public corporations. In these proposals, there is a new emphasis encouraging greater use of renewable energy at utilities, along with the longstanding concern about what will happen to fossil fuel producers if governments enact restrictions on burning their products, according to the Proxy Preview report, “Politics and Paris.”
The Proxy Preview is a collaboration between three groups: As You Sow, a nonprofit organization that promotes corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy; the Sustainable Investments Institute, which conducts research on social and environmental share-holder proposals; and Proxy Impact, a shareholder advocacy and proxy voting service for foundations, endowments, and socially responsible investors.
“Sustainability reporting resolutions may be a casualty of their own success; half of the two dozen proposals about sustainability [this year] are not on reporting, but rather seek executive pay incentives for implementing sustainability policies, illustrating practical ways in which companies may be persuaded to change,” says the Proxy Preview.
Of the environmental proposals, climate change continues to be the primary focus of all environmental shareholder proposals. Ninety-four proposals are about carbon accounting and risk management disclosure. Other proposals deal with food waste, recycling, water, toxic materials, antibiotic use and animal welfare in industrial food production. Four of the five deforestation proposals this year make explicit the connection with human rights.
The number of resolutions on corporate political activity remains high [and] controversies about corporate involvement in the political arena are far from over and continue to capture public attention as the U.S. presidential election season heats up this year, according to the report.
There continue to be more resolutions about lobbying than election spending, with four this year on related subjects, according to the report.
Also among the social issues, human and labor rights resolutions this year have a different makeup, with proposals advocating fair work standards that address the issue of growing economic inequality and the growing national concerns about its damaging impact.
Early filings at the Securities and Exchange Commission suggest the big surge in resolutions from conservatives groups, led most prominently by the National Center for Public Policy Research, may be over, the report says.
The full report is available here.