Shareholder Advocacy

In the past six months, through our affiliation with the FAIRR Initiative, we have engaged a variety of meat processing companies such as Tyson, Armor, Farmer John, Smithfield, and other brands in Australia, Brazil, and China regarding significant labor issues at their facilities and overall operations in the areas of worker voice, working conditions, grievance procedures, wages, paid sick leave, and an assessment of the impacts of contractors and automation on the workforce and productivity.

Through our affiliation with the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, we supported a letter with dozens of our colleagues urging the largest 50 global banks to undertake human rights due diligence across all forms of finance, including lending, asset management, and bond underwriting. We aligned these efforts with longstanding international business and human rights frameworks in consultation with impacted rights holders in high-risk areas.

We asked the banks to report on how adverse human rights impacts have been identified, managed, and addressed to provide grievance and other remedies that address adverse impacts. Thus far, per BankTrack, banks leading the way in this realm include Citi (the only American bank), Barclays, and PNB Paribas, while the laggards feature JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

Shareholder Advocacy

Your ownership of shares of stock can influence corporate policies.

When you own socially responsible funds or individual stocks, you have a powerful voice that can be exercised.

Managers of funds and other products held in our client portfolios are committed to various forms of advocacy:

  1. Dialogue with management
  2. Filing and supporting shareholder resolutions
  3. Testimony to regulators and elected officials addressing corporate reforms

Engagements and resolutions address everything from workplace and board diversity, labor standards, and indigenous people’s rights to supply chain analysis, sustainability reporting, and strategies to mitigate climate change risk. The funds you can own participate in dozens of engagements with corporate senior management, while hundreds of shareholder resolutions are filed and voted on annually, many of which are successful and result in significant policy changes. You can vote your own proxies or delegate this authority to your financial advisor, but it does make a direct impact on material issues that affect corporate strategy and the bottom line.

In addition, our Director of Social Research is on the Board of Directors and the Policy Committee of US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, through which a variety of advocacy initiatives are undertaken with Congress, the White House, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Labor, and Environmental Protection Agency. Such efforts aim to protect and enhance shareholder rights, improve corporate disclosure on environmental, social, and governance issues, and provide proper guidance to fiduciaries on how to integrate socially responsible investment approaches.

If you join the Natural Investments family, you will be well-represented as we and the socially responsible funds you can own engage companies, legislators and appointees on your behalf, participating in calls with management, signing onto letters written by colleagues to companies, regulatory agencies, elected officials, and the Supreme Court, and meeting in person you’re your representatives in Congress and regulatory agency officials to inform them of the priorities of socially responsible investors like you.

In 2019, our efforts have included the following…

Our work to engage companies in reducing gun violence continued through 2019. We urged US Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, Capitol One, Citi, Mastercard, American Express, VISA, and nine others to curb direct lending to gun manufacturers and indirect support for gun buyers via credit card transactions. The financial institutions we targeted responded that gun violence is a matter of regulatory or legislative authority, not company policy, as they do not consider this issue a material risk to their industry.

We signed several letters to Congressional leaders in support of their sponsorship of Green New Deal legislation.

We endorsed the Carbon Disclosure Project’s appeal to dozens of companies to disclose the impacts of company operations on the forests, air, and waterways of the world.

We supported a letter to Congressional leaders in support of the Climate Risk Disclosure Act of 2019 which would enable investors to assess the climate risk for companies unwilling to disclose this information publicly. Under current Senate leadership, the bill is stalled.

We supported a letter to dozens of companies, particularly the largest banks that loan to fossil-fuel companies, to address the urgent need for a climate plan and to address how their government lobbying activities undermine the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement; we also shared investor expectations regarding such behavior and the potential corporate risks it exposes. We requested that these companies align their own interests and lobbying activities with the industry associations to which they belong and encourage such associations to adopt positions that acknowledge the materiality of climate change risk.

We signed onto As You Sow’s letter to the governments of developed nations, along with 500 institutional investors representing $34 trillion in assets, demanding compliance with the Paris Agreement’s climate change financial reporting standards and the private sector
collaboration required to reduce atmospheric carbon.

We signed onto a letter to natural gas producers and utilities requesting that they pressure the EPA not to roll back previously established standards regulating oil and gas methane emissions. Methane capture is critical to address climate change and represents a possible secondary revenue stream, so it must be properly regulated.

As a signatory to the Global Investor Engagement on Meat Sourcing, we signed onto letters orchestrated by Ceres and the FAIRR Initiative to McDonald’s, Chipotle, Yum! Brands, Domino’s, Wendy’s, and RBI (the owner of Burger King, Popeye’s, and Tim
Horton’s) asking the companies to better manage water and environmental risk within their meat and dairy supply chains, given their impact on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

We signed onto an As You Sow letter to General Mills regarding its purchase of grains from farmers that use glyphosate before harvest on crops. Although engagement with the company was at first unsuccessful, the company agreed to reduce pesticides in its supply chain after a proxy vote on the matter garnered over 30% support.

In conjunction with an investment coalition facilitated by Reproductive Health Investors, we signed a letter to more than 30 companies urging them to provide comprehensive reproductive health care for women and family-friendly workplace benefits; disclose political contributions toward political candidates and PACs that advocate limits on women’s reproductive rights; and end the practice of forced arbitration for employee sexual harassment claims (which creates a shroud of mystery that leaves investors and the public in the dark about how such claims are handled and what steps are being taking to reduce such risks). Several companies, such as Coca-Cola, FedEx, and CVS, have been willing to engage in dialogue on these topics.

We supported a campaign by the Investor Alliance for Human Rights to urge the financial institutions that have signed the Equator Principles to uphold strong human rights workplace and community
standards. The principles address the protection of vulnerable people; human rights grievances; and the health, water, food, housing, land, and resource impacts of the climate crisis. They also uphold the needs of relevant stakeholders, particularly the prior consent rights of indigenous peoples.

Through our participation in the Bangladesh Investor Initiative of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, we wrote a joint letter to the Bangladeshi government to request that the country not abandon the 1,600-company-strong Accord on Fire and Building Safety. The accord is in jeopardy of ending just six years after it was established––before the formalization of a significant facilities
inspection program to protect workers from unsafe working conditions. The result of these efforts was the establishment of a sustainability council with representatives from manufacturers, brands, and trade unions to enforce a transparent factory inspection process that guarantees workplace safety.

Through our co-sponsorship of the Shareholder Rights Group, a coalition of leading SRI firms, we submitted a letter to the SEC during its public comment period on its proposed rule changes on how investors can submit shareholder proposals––and why proxy
advisor firms hired by investors, advisors, and money managers are suitably representing investors and not their own interests. The SEC has received thousands of such comments critical of the SEC’s proposed rules, which severely curtail the rights of average investors to advocate against risky corporate practices that can affect share value. Many comments requested that the SEC conduct an economic analysis of the proposed rule, as required by statute.

We signed a letter from dozens of investment firms in support of the new Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) topic-specific standard, “Tax and Payments to Governments,” which would increase transparency in tax reporting by multinational corporations and evaluate the penalties, risks, and economic impacts associated with retaining profits in “shell” countries to avoid domestic taxes.

Previous Years

2018 Social Impact Report

2017 Social Impact Report

2016 Social Impact Report

Advocacy Blog

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