IEHN members have been the lead filers on two-thirds of the 103 shareholder resolutions on toxic chemicals filed by investors since 2006. Of the 44 resolutions that were voted on during that period (many others were withdrawn due to favorable company responses), two dozen received more than 20% of shareholder votes.

"That's a significant enough number to get a company's attention," says Larisa Ruoff, the director of shareholder advocacy at Green Century Capital Management in Boston, one of IEHN's partner organizations.

For broader context, a first-year resolution filed with a company needs to get at least 3% of the vote in order to be refiled the following year.

Solutions, Not Just Talk

Roger McFadden, a senior scientist with Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples Inc., circulates IEHN information with the office supply retailer's key decision makers. "I view IEHN as a credible and relevant information resource to identify chemicals of high concern, but more importantly, to identify safer alternatives," he says
As a result of talks with IEHN, Staples has eliminated endocrine-disrupting nonylphenol ethoxylates from its own brand cleaning supplies; stopped using thermal register receipts coated in BPA; and now uses PVC-free packaging materials for its own brands.

IEHN has helped oil and gas exploration company Apache Corp. identify important questions regarding hydraulic fracturing. "While other people spend time preaching to their own choirs and valuing opinion over fact, Rich [Liroff] spends time crunching numbers, reading footnotes, reaching out to new people from across the spectrum, and forging doable-but-meaningful deals," says Sarah Teslik, Apache's senior vice president of policy and governance.

Liroff encourages financial advisors to use information resources on IEHN's web site, including case studies, reports and articles. IEHN staff also provides fee-based services for people who want to dive deeper into these issues.

In addition, Liroff recommends checking out the SIN (Substitute It Now!) List developed by the nonprofit International Chemical Secretariat, or ChemSec. It includes 378 substances identified as very high concern under REACH, the European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use.

Down the road, Liroff expects companies will talk more about their toxic footprints like they've begun to do with their carbon and water footprints. IEHN's partner organizations believe that'll help achieve the trifecta of improved corporate operations, public health and shareholder value.

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