Global investors urge G7 to stand by Paris Agreement

Seventh Generation Interfaith and several of our members were among 200 institutional investors representing more than USD 15 trillion in assets who sent a letter urging the G7 heads of state to stand by their commitments to the Paris Agreement at their upcoming Summit in Taormina, Italy on May 26-27. These investors ask the world leaders to reiterate their support for and commitment to implement the Paris Agreement, including the delivery of their own Nationally Determined Contributions in full. A briefing paper for governments of the G7 and G20 nations was prepared by six investor organisations including the Asia Investor Group on Climate Change, CDP, Ceres, the Investor Group on Climate (IGCC, Australia/New Zealand), the Institutional Investor Group on Climate Change (IIGCC, Europe), and The Principles for Responsible Investment.

“With the US threatening to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement next week, now is the time for investors to make their voices heard by encouraging governments to stand firm on their commitment to the Paris Agreement,” said Fiona Reynolds, managing director of the PRI. “Investors worldwide have come to understand the material financial risks around climate change. Certainly, at the PRI, our members have noted climate risks as their number one ESG concern.”

Congress takes aim at shareholder rights

Frank Sherman, Associate Director Seventh Generation Interfaith

Many of the laws and regulations protecting the environment, consumer and worker rights, immigrants and minorities have been under attack of late. Now Congress is going after investor rights that have benefited investors, companies and society as a whole for nearly 80 years. Proposed legislation would prevent most investors from being able to file shareholder proposals with companies on key issues they want further action on, such as board governance matters, corporate policies or emerging risks like climate change. The shareholder proposal process is a critical tool in Seventh Generation Interfaith members’ ability to influence corporate behavior.

The Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been lobbying for these changes for years. Among other changes, the minimum stock holdings would be increased from $2,000 in shares for one year to 1 percent of the company’s outstanding stock for three years in order to file resolutions. In effect, even the nation’s largest institutional investors, including the nation’s largest public pension funds, would not be able to file shareholder resolutions with companies.“The shareholder proposal language in the bill is clearly an overreach,” said Jonas Kron, Senior Vice President, Trillium Asset Management. “For example, raising the ownership requirement to 1% would leave only 11 investors with enough shares to file shareholder proposals at Wells Fargo. None of those investors have ever filed a shareholder proposal. In the mean time, smaller, but no less important, institutional investors in Wells Fargo have filed strongly supported proposals on a range of very important governance and management issues that should be raised with Wells Fargo management and directors.”

The amendment to the SEC rules, part of a larger bill (the Financial Choice Act, aimed at replacing the Dodd-Frank Act, has been proposed by House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).  A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Wednesday, April 26.

Many of the country’s largest investors are registering strong opposition to the legislation.  A recent report published by Ceres in collaboration with ICCR and US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, outlines numerous benefits investors have seen from the shareholder proxy tool, including inclusion of more independent board directors, stronger disclosure on political spending, widespread adoption of international human rights principles and wide-ranging actions to mitigate climate change risks. Last year, investors filed about 1,000 shareholder proposals with companies, including about 500 focused on corporate governance issues and more than 400 focused on environmental and social issues.

Bangladesh Accord illustrates power of multi-stakeholder collaboration to address supply chain issues

In the aftermath of the tragedy at Rana Plaza, April 24, 2013, the Bangladesh Investor Initiative has actively engaged companies sourcing  in the garment sector.   While substantial progress has been made in the last four years, there is still a great deal to be done before the sector is truly transformed where workers are assured of safe and healthy workplaces.  Click for ICCR’s press release which includes a link to the investor statement.

ICCR statement in support of in-person annual stockholder meetings

ICCR believes the ability to attend annual stockholder meetings in person is a fundamental tenet of shareholder democracy. The annual meeting provides shareholders with a critical accountability mechanism to assess, challenge and evaluate management performance through an open exchange
with board and management.

Nevertheless, there is a growing trend among several high profile corporations – including ConocoPhillips, Comcast, Duke Energy, Ford Motor Company, HP, Intel and Biogen – that would eliminate in-person stockholder meetings in favor of virtual-only (webcast) meetings.

Read the full text of ICCR’s statement in support of in-person shareholder meetings.