SUPREME COURT SHOWERS BRING PROXY FLOWERS — Companies are seeing a record number of shareholder resolutions aimed at reproductive health issues in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision revoking the constitutional right to abortion, according to a new analysis.
Shareholder advocacy group As You Sow, along with Sustainable Investments Institute and Proxy Impact, found 23 proxy-ballot proposals related to reproductive health, up from four last year and two in 2021.
Alphabet and Meta are facing proposals for them to report on abortion-related privacy protections, while Walmart, PayPal, CVS and American Express are being asked to account for the risks of sharing abortion-related data. McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Costco, meanwhile, are being asked to report on risks to reproductive health rights.
“The Dobbs decision exposed a number of areas of vulnerability for corporations, and investors had responded by increasing their engagement,” said Shelley Alpern, director of corporate engagement at Rhia Ventures, which advised some of the firms that put forward proposals tied to reproductive health.
Of the total reproductive health proposals filed, 11 are pending, one has gone to vote and roughly half have been withdrawn, according to the report. Trillium Asset Management withdrew one to require TJX Companies report on risks associated with state policies restricting abortion after the company said it had adopted travel benefits for accessing reproductive care and engaged its insurance providers about contraceptives, for example.
The report also found an increase in climate-related proposals — 122, up from 109 at the same time last year. Nearly a quarter of the more than 500 shareholder proposals made as of mid-February are related to climate change. Seventeen percent are tied to political influence and 15 percent are related to human rights. Anti-ESG proposals comprise 8 percent of the total.
The number of total shareholder proposals filed is on pace to match or top the 627 proposals that were ultimately filed in 2022, according to the report. It also said 454 of the proposals were expected to go to a vote, but it cautioned that number will likely fall.
The climate change proposals are still largely focused on greenhouse gas emissions cuts and the requisite reporting — including ones from As You Sow itself, which has filed dozens of proposals that would have companies do things like report on net-zero emissions goals and their use of carbon offsets.
Meanwhile, the anti-ESG movement that has spurred legislation in a number of Republican-led states is expanding its presence on proxy ballots.
“Early indications are that anti-ESG resolutions, which expanded last year, will increase still further despite the cool reception they receive,” the report said. The groups said most of the proposals “question the wisdom of racial and ethnic diversity on boards and suggest that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs and anti-racism initiatives discriminate against conservative white people.”
Last year, support for anti-ESG proposals was less than 4 percent on average. Support for pro-ESG proposals last year averaged around 30 percent. Average support for overall shareholder proposals, meanwhile, was somewhere between 20 percent and 30 percent.
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