Tim Smith, an early innovators of shareowner activism in the 1970s, analyzes this year’s proxy season. Smith was head of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. ICCR practically invented the process of filing shareholder resolutions at companies they invest in raising concern around the environmental, society, and governance — now known as ESG. For years, he attended companies’ general meetings during proxy season when investors vote on shareholder resolutions.
Corporate Watchdog Radio co-hosts Francesca Rheannon and Bill Baue speak with Laura Berry, executive director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Founded in 1971, ICCR pioneered the modern practice of shareowner activism by reviving an obscure rule allowing shareowners to file resolutions addressing social and environmental issues at company annual meetings and on their proxies. Now, over three-and-a-half decades later, ICCR is a coalition of about 275 faith-based institutional investors with over $100 billion in assets who filed over 300 resolutions this proxy season.
Berry clarifies common misconceptions about how the ins and outs of shareowner activism. For example, media accounts often report a less-than-majority vote as a “defeat,” when in fact, companies often implement what resolutions request when they receive 20 percent or more support. She also discusses transformations she sees taking place in the corporate social responsibility landscape.
CWR also debuts a new segment with headlines on corporate sustainability developments from the past week, the first in a series of exciting changes to enhance the show.
CWR co-hosts Bill Baue and Francesca Rheannon speak with Eric Cohen, chairperson for Investors against Genocide and Tim Smith, senior vice president at Walden Asset Management and immediate past chair of the Social Investment Forum, about the campaign promoting targeted divestment by mutual funds from companies supporting the Khartoum regime in the Sudan.
Smith, who helped pioneer the practice of shareholder activism encouraging companies to adopt more sustainable and responsible practices as a founder of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, discusses the novelty and efficacy of engaging mutual funds, which has rarely been practiced until now.
Cohen explains the strategy in-depth, noting that the SEC upheld its validity after mutual fund giant Fidelity challenged it legally. He also cites a 2007 survey in which 71% of respondents said that mutual fund companies should take into account extreme cases of human rights abuses when investing overseas, rather than make their investment decisions on economic criteria alone.
Cecilie Surasky of Jewish Voice for Peace and Michael Passoff of the As You Sow Foundation discuss the shareowner resolution they filed with Caterpillar over the Israeli Defense Forces’ use of their bulldozers to commit human rights abuses in the occupied territories. Bill Somplatsky-Jarman of the Presbyterian Church USA discusses how its Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee is engaging Caterpillar, Citigroup, Motorolla, United Technologies, and ITT to promote peaceful solutions to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.