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January 22, 2003
ICCR Proxy Resolutions Book Gauges Shareowner Action Climate
    by William Baue

In its new publication, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility rounds up the social and environmental shareowner resolutions to be voted on in the 2003 proxy season.


Next Monday, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) will release its 2003 Proxy Resolutions Book. Part I lists the 92 companies where social and environmental resolutions have been filed for this year's upcoming proxy season, collated to the 140 resolution titles and the names of each resolution's sponsors. Part II, which represents the bulk of the book, reprints full texts of resolutions. The book thus functions as a barometer of shareowner action, displaying which social and environmental issues are foremost in investors' minds and which companies will feel the pressure.

"Although it isn't exhaustive, this is the most comprehensive catalog of shareowner resolutions available in one place," said ICCR Executive Director Sister Patricia Wolf. The Proxy Resolutions Book comprises resolutions filed by members of ICCR's coalition of over 275 religious institutional investors, as well as such diverse associates as Amnesty International USA, New York City Pension Funds, and the Women's Equity Mutual Fund. ICCR thus covers a broad spectrum of investors involved in shareowner action.

ICCR understands from experience that it can increase its effectiveness on certain key issues by proposing one or more resolutions to not just one company but several companies. In 2003, for example, there is a plethora of resolutions related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, climate change, and renewable energy.

"We have new resolutions this year that are focused on the oil and gas sector, the auto sector, and utilities sector asking for reports on steps taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Sr. Wolf told SocialFunds.com. She highlighted the auto sector resolutions, which ask General Motors (ticker: GM) and the Ford Motor Company (F) to evaluate what new public policies would enable and assist the companies in achieving GHG emissions reductions. "Are they willing to even engage in policy change? Advocating public policy change is an entirely new area for resolutions."

The utilities sector resolutions ask American Electric Power (AEP), Cinergy Corporation (CIN), Southern Company (SO), and TXU Corporation (TXU) to report on the potential economic benefits of committing to a substantial reduction in GHG emissions.

"Framing the resolution in such a positive light, especially in terms of making the business case for attending to greenhouse gas emissions reduction, is really a substantial and novel part of these resolutions," said Sr. Wolf.

Sr. Wolf also highlighted the resubmission of the renewable energy resolution at ExxonMobil (XOM).

"We received over 20 percent of the vote last year at ExxonMobil on that resolution, which asks not what they're doing in terms of renewables, but why haven't they done anything," said Sr. Wolf. "That resolution really puts it to them."

ICCR members and associates have filed five additional resolutions with ExxonMobil covering a wide range of issues, from human rights standards and sexual orientation nondiscrimination to the impact of AIDS on operations and competitive board elections.

There are several resolutions linking executive pay to social and environmental performance this season. The Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds (CRPTF) linked executive compensation to equal opportunity at Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), and Responsible Wealth and Trillium Asset Management linked executive pay to predatory lending at Citigroup (C). The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which joined ICCR as an associate this past year, linked executive pay to employee health insurance at Wal-Mart (WMT).

"One of the newer developments this proxy season is the expansion of corporate governance resolutions," said Sr. Wolf. "A new resolution being supported by ICCR members is the pay disparity resolution, asking for information on the highest paid to the lowest paid employee over a 20-year period at 10-year intervals, from 1982 through 2002. At a time of what would appear to be egregious executive pay, this resolution is a way of documenting the widening gap between rich and poor on a company-by-company basis."

The pay disparity resolution has been filed at such high visibility companies as AOL Time Warner (AOL) and General Electric (GE).

Finally, Sr. Wolf highlighted the increasing number of Canadian resolutions that are making their way into the Proxy Resolutions Book. Placer Dome (PDG) has received three separate resolutions, and the five top banks in the country have been asked to disclose their social and environmental risks.

"The fact that we're publishing these Canadians resolutions in our Proxy Resolutions Book shows the growth of the SRI movement beyond the United States, which I think is important," said Sr. Wolf.

 

 
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