« View All Blog Posts

A Minor Force for Impact Investing
By Mike Sakraida

An Insider's Look at Presenting a Shareholder Resolution

With the 2016 Proxy voting season nearly over, we wanted to highlight our experiences presenting resolutions at a selection of annual meetings.  In the past companies have not been the most welcoming to our community. They cannot prevent our resolution from taking place, but when the meeting happens we were often refuted or even ignored. While management today still rarely supports these resolutions (for if they do it is likely withdrawn before it goes to a vote), we are beginning to see a change in how they accept our engagement. You will read some of this variety below. A few of the resolutions recounted were filed by First Affirmative, but others were filed by partner organizations, including network advisors. We are proud to be part of such a dedicated community with a combined mission of challenging great companies to become even greater.

A Minor Force for Impact Investing

By Mike Sakraida

Copyright (c) Ian Capper

I presented a resolution at Travelers asking the company to disclose its share of lobbying expenditures through its memberships in associations.

It was clear to me how much respect Travelers has for the resolution process and the effort that the board of directors has to expend to negate being viewed in a negative way for voting down the resolution.  After I presented the resolution to the more than 500 shareholders in attendance, the board and all of this company's senior management, their CEO Alan Schnitzer, spent a good ten minutes thanking me for presenting this resolution up, how seriously they believe in transparency, but why they felt they shouldn't approve it. The very short version of why the board recommended that the shareholders vote down our resolution is that they claimed it would create a competitive disadvantage for them. They felt that the associations that lobby on their behalf often lobby for laws which work against them.  So, to disclosure on such lobbying efforts would cause them to incorrectly to be viewed and endorsing such efforts.  I knew this would be their response – it was given to us before the shareholder vote – so I mentioned in the resolution that some of their competitors had such lobbying-through-associations transparency.

As expected, First Affirmative's resolution was rejected, but this is just the beginning of this advocacy.  In spite of the official opposition, this resolution got 43.9% of the vote which gives us considerable leverage to engage the company in further dialogue and the potential to file another resolution next year.  Most of the time a resolution is just one step on a long road towards change.

First Affirmative understands that the ways we save, spend, and invest can dramatically influence both the fabric and consciousness of society. Are you making conscious decisions about the impact of your consumer purchase and investment decisions?

NOTE: Mention of specific companies or securities should not be considered an endorsement or a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Posted: August 12, 2016