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Proxy Preview 2015 Highlights the New “Zeitgeist”
By Holly Testa, Director, Shareowner Engagement

First Affirmative is a proud sponsor of Proxy Preview, a combined effort of As You Sow, Sustainable Investments Institute and Proxy Impact. The 2015 edition is hot off the presses, and it previews what is bound to be a very interesting and record-setting proxy voting season.

This year once again breaks records with 433 environmental and social resolutions filed. But the big news this year may be what As You Sow’s CEO Andrew Behar calls “the new zeitgeist.”

Investors Call for Systemic Change

Many shareholder proposals are once again focusing on changing corporate policies and practices around specific issues such as climate change, political spending, recycling, human rights, and diversity. But, as Behar points out, investors “…are uniting to demand systemic change in how boards are elected and governed.”

Proxy Preview points to a number of shareholder initiatives where the combined impact has the potential to change the face of corporate governance. Behar highlights the remarkable events observed recently:

  • An unprecedented 107 “proxy access” resolutions to enable shareholders to nominate board candidates.
  • An increase in proposals seeking CEO pay links to sustainability and climate targets.
  • Challenges to spiraling CEO pay and growing income inequality.
  • Increased demands for more independent board candidates with environmental and climate risk expertise, and more corporate commitments to address these issues in board committees.
  • After investor outrage, reconsideration by the Securities and Exchange Commission of its interpretation of a rule that allowed a company to exclude a shareholder proxy access resolution and replace it with its own substantially different resolution.

Behar says that this “demonstrates a basic shift in shareholder views: a policy change on a specific issue is good, but it is clearly not enough. Instead, company governance must become generally more diverse, transparent, and accountable. Pension funds, foundations, endowments, and individual shareholders across the globe are clearly saying it’s time for boards of directors to fundamentally change.”

For a comprehensive overview of this year’s report, listen to the webinar that can be found at www.proxypreview.org.

At First Affirmative, we understand that the ways we save, spend, and invest can dramatically influence both the fabric and consciousness of society. We believe that in addition to the benefits of ownership, investors bear responsibility for the impact our money has in the world. Are you making conscious decisions about the impact of your consumer purchase and investment decisions?

Posted: March 27, 2015