Apple, Intel, Colgate, Smucker’s, Crocs, and Garmin are among the companies whose investors successfully used shareholder resolutions to spur corporate action on climate change, hydraulic fracturing, supply chain and water availability risks, among other sustainability issues, during the 2012 proxy voting season.
Advocacy group Ceres says of the some 110 resolutions is tracked in 2012, 44 proposals resulted in US companies making commitments to confront environmental and social risks in their operations and supply chains.
The New York State Comptroller’s Office secured agreements from Apple, Dell, HP and Intel — firms representing more than 50 percent of the personal computer market, according to Gartner analysts — to encourage or require their major suppliers to issue sustainability reports that address environmental issues, Ceres says.
Also in 2012, Calvert Investments and the comptroller’s office won commitments from Colgate and Smucker’s, respectively, to source 100 percent certified sustainable palm oil for their products. Additionally, 37 percent of shareholders of Yum Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, voted in favor of a shareholder resolution filed by Trillium Asset Management, requesting that the company source 100 percent certified sustainable palm oil.
While palm oil itself isn’t a direct source of GHGs, the palms are often grown on large-scale plantations created by clear-cutting and burning rainforests and peat lands, which emits GHGs and endangers rare species. Ceres says palm oil is used in about 50 percent of supermarket products because it’s a healthier replacement for trans-fat oils, and IndexMundi reports US palm oil imports have increased more than 550 percent since 2002.
Shareholders also convinced Crocs, DSW, Garmin, Celgene and PF Chang’s China Bistro to publish sustainability reports, among other commitments from large corporations. In fact, Ceres says sustainability reporting and management resolutions represented more than a quarter of all resolutions it tracked during the 2012 season.
Investors also drew attention to hydraulic fracturing – known as fracking – which has come under scrutiny because of its water-supply and other risks, securing agreements from major drilling firms Anadarko, EOG Resources, Chesapeake Energy, Penn Virginia, Range Resources, Noble Energy and Stone Energy to improve disclosure around the risks associated with their fracking operations, including water risks.
In total, shareholders filed 10 fracking-related proposals and garnered a 30 percent average vote at the companies that declined to negotiate withdrawals in advance of annual meetings. Lead filers included As You Sow, Green Century Capital Management, Miller/Howard Investments, Mercy Investment Services, New York State Comptroller’s Office and Trillium Asset Management.
In the 2011 proxy season, Ceres said shareholders filed 66 climate and energy resolutions with 41 coal, electric and oil companies.
A Ceres analysis of 600 U.S. companies published in April found corporate leadership on sustainability practices and performances fell short of expectations. However, Ernst & Young, in a study published the same month, reported investor attention to the “triple bottom line” of environmental, social and economic performance is growing and raising support levels for shareholder resolutions on environmental issues.