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February 25, 2016
ICCR Publishes 2016 Proxy Voting Guide
    by Robert Kropp

Members of the faith-based investor organization have filed 257 shareowner resolutions thus far this proxy season, with climate change and corporate political expenditures receiving the most attention.


In more than one of the conversations I have had with her, former Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) Executive Director Laura Berry emphasized the evolution of the organization's corporate engagement strategies.

"How do you take 650 resolutions without much dialogue, and distill them down to 150 with much richer dialogue and get ten times as may mainstream investors voting with you?" Berry asked. "We're playing a bridge-building role, because we're coming to this from the perspective of moving companies toward a better way of doing business. We're in boardrooms because we believe companies have the power to make the changes to build a more just and sustainable world."

"When you start to use language around transformation and collaboration, it starts to leave the field of adversarial conversations and pushes us toward everyone having a stake in transformation," Berry said in 2012.

As a faith-based organization of institutional investors, ICCR has a rich history of moral engagement on business issues relating to environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues, dating back to the movement for divestment from companies doing business with the apartheid regime of South Africa in the 1970s. And, as the recently published
Proxy Resolutions and Voting Guide clearly indicates, ICCR members do not avoid the more adversarial engagement strategy of shareowner resolutions, when corporations fail to meaningfully address global crises such as climate change and wealth inequality.

The Guide states, “The number of filings for any given year can be an important indicator of the level of corporate resistance to, or acceptance of, the changes being sought by ICCR members.” Since 2012, when members filed 160 resolutions (a number exceeded that year by the number of corporate dialogues), the number of those filed have steadily increased, to 257 in 2016. Given the moral lens through which ICCR members view their corporate engagement responsibilities, it would appear that business could be doing much more.

Given the rapidly increasing global impacts of climate change, as well as the international agreements arrived at during the COP21 conference last fall, it's not surprising to learn that the number of resolutions addressing climate change has increased increased dramatically. “ICCR members filed a record 91 resolutions either directly or indirectly referencing climate change, more than at any time in their history, and 24 more than in the previous year,” the Guide states. What makes many of the new resolutions so remarkable is the moral perspective included in the text.

A shareowner resolution filed with ExxonMobil, for example, requests that the company “adopt a policy acknowledging the imperative to limit global average temperature increases to 2°C above preindustrial levels, which includes committing the Company to support the goal of limiting warming to less than 2°C.”

“ExxonMobil should assert moral leadership with respect to climate change,” the resolution continued. “This policy would supplement ExxonMobil’s existing positions on climate policy.”

This being an election year, another significant focus for ICCR members has been corporate political spending and lobbying expenditures. Sixty-two resolutions addressing corporate lobbying and political contributions disclosure were filed this year. “Shareholders are concerned that corporations continue to invest millions of dollars in undisclosed 'dark money' to influence our legislative and political systems, and exert their influence through membership in and donations to organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the American Legislative Exchange Council,” the Guide states.

This year's Guide, which is available as a free download on ICCR's website, includes the text of all resolutions filed by members, and is essential reading for investors and concerned citizens as well.

 

 
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