Sustainability still big on shareholders' minds

More than one-third of the shareholder resolutions for the 2012 annual meeting season center on environmental issues, suggesting that these concerns are mainstreaming.

Support for issues related to social responsibility and environmental considerations are still becoming more mainstream in the world of shareholder proxies, according to a new report prepared by three groups focused on shareholder advocacy and socially responsibility investing.

The report, Proxy Preview 2012, put the number of environmental/sustainability resolutions filed for the 2012 corporate annual meeting season at 117. Many of the resolutions focused on natural resource management centered on coal and fracking, according to the analysis. The Proxy Preview 2012 was prepared by As You Sow, a non-profit focused on promoting corporate responsibility; the Sustainable Investments Institute, which follows social and environmental proposals; and Proxy Impact, which is a proxy voting service.

Here's a breakdown of the proposals, as tracked by these groups:

The report covers about 350 shareholder resolutions in all. The analysis suggests that these resolutions deserve more attention, because of the support some similar environmental resolutions gathered during the 2011 proxy season.

Noted Heidi Welsh, executive director of the Sustainable Investments Institute:

"These resolutions are too important to ignore. Many corporations recognize that shareholder proposals can be red flags for hard issues they have to tackle, sooner or later. Engagement with shareholder proponents can help them better manage the risks to their brands and business, which helps everybody."

This latest report comes in the same month when dozens of institutional investments signed up to support an effort by the Carbon Disclosure Project to encourage better environmental disclosure and action related to the management of greenhouse gas emissions across major industrial supply chains. The group suggests that a shareholder resolution from a New York City pension fund helped force Apple and other high-tech giants to focus more attention on environmental and social policy across their supply chains.

Indeed, approximately two dozen of the latest proxies focus on labor and human rights, many of them from faith-based investors. There also has been a huge uptick in resolutions related to corporate political spending disclosure. Twice as many resolutions related to this topic were filed for 2012 as were filed three years ago.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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