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The Evolution of Corporate Engagement as Sustainability Goes "Mainstream"
By Holly Testa, Director, Shareowner Engagement

Garnering a high percentage of votes on social and environmental shareholder resolutions is gratifying for shareowner advocates, and this year has been one for the record books—particularly with regard to sustainability issues.

Ceres reports the details on this year’s outcomes, showing that many environmental and social issues are consistently receiving more than 30%, and often more than 40%, shareowner support. Even more telling is the fact that almost half of the resolutions coordinated by Ceres were withdrawn, indicating that shareowners are successfully engaging companies in dialogue, and forging agreements to address the issues of concern.

Despite this increasing success, shareowners are actually looking forward to filing fewer resolutions in the future. Why? These high vote counts and successful withdrawals show that that a broad range of investors are supporting these resolutions—sustainability is becoming mainstream. Companies are not only seeking to avoid the negative publicity that can accompany multiple years of high shareowner votes, they appear to be recognizing that there is a strong business case for sustainability. As a result, they are meeting with shareholders and taking constructive action without the need for a resolution.

According to Interfaith Center of Corporate Responsibility Executive Director Laura Berry, "The business case for sustainability has become more specific," Berry said. "It's become more useful for companies, and they're starting to get the point. It no longer requires a belief system, because it's become meaningful for companies' business practices. And ultimately, all of our work is about changing how companies do business."

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Posted: July 24, 2012