Call to action for investors: Make 2021 the year of stewardship for people and planet

Week of 29 March 2021

Call to action for investors: Make 2021 the year of stewardship for people and planet

Investor responsibility NGO ShareAction has compiled a list of the top 13 “most important ESG resolutions” on the table for shareholders to vote on during Annual General Meetings (AGM) over the coming months. ShareAction is sharing this list with asset managers as a way to “help them hold asset managers to account on the votes that matter.” The main topics for 2021 won’t come as a surprise: climate and biodiversity, human rights, decent work, health and racial equality.

 Specifically, ShareAction is “encouraging asset owners to ask their managers to vote for the resolutions on the list, to publicly pre-declare their voting intention, and to publish a rationale for any deviations in voting outcomes.”

This AGM season will be a particularly interesting one for those keeping an eye on ESG matters, especially in light of new investment stewardship priorities on human rights and natural capital recently released by BlackRock (the largest asset managers in the world based on total assets under management). According to ShareAction’s 2020 Voting Matters report, “just 15 out of 102 ESG resolutions received majority support last year, with the two largest fund managers, BlackRock and Vanguard, voting for just 12% and 14% of proposals, respectively.”

The top 13 resolutions highlighted by ShareAction are below (you can find links to each resolution in ShareAction’s press release and we have also pulled out points from some of the resolutions below):

Below, we’ve highlighted the key asks from some of the proposals on ShareAction’s list:

    • Tesco: ShareAction has filed a resolution calling on Tesco to “include in its Annual Report published from 2022 onwards, a description of its strategy in the area of nutrition and health, as well as: (1) Metrics and targets: disclose the share of total food and non-alcoholic drink annual sales by volume made up of healthier products and publish a target to significantly increase that share by 2030; (2) Progress reporting: publish an annual review of progress on delivering the abovementioned strategy, including the metrics and targets at (1) above.”
    • General Motors: The New York City Office of the Comptroller has filed a resolution requesting that the Board of Directors “conduct an evaluation and issue a report within the next year (at reasonable cost, omitting proprietary information) describing if, and how GM’s lobbying activities (direct and through trade associations) and spending align with the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal of limiting average global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and how GM plans to mitigate risks presented by any misalignment.”
    • Barclays: Market Forces has filed a resolution that would “require the company to set further and improved short-, medium-, and long-term targets, to phase out its provision of financial services to fossil fuels, in timelines consistent with the Paris Agreement.”
    • Walmart: United for Respect, with several co-filers, has filed a resolution calling on Walmart to “study the feasibility of providing two weeks of paid sick leave, as well as two weeks of paid leave to care for a sick or quarantined family member or a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable due to illness, as a standard Associate benefit not limited to COVID-19.”
    • Wendy’s International: The Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, NY have filed a resolution calling on Wendy’s to “issue a report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, addressing Wendy’s Supplier Code of Conduct and the extent to which Wendy’s Quality Assurance audits and third-party reviews effectively protect workers in its food supply chain from human rights violations, including harms associated with COVID-19.”  
    • Kroger: Oxfam America, with several co-filers, has filed a resolution calling on Kroger to “prepare a report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, on Kroger’s human rights due diligence (HRDD) process to identify, assess, prevent and mitigate actual and potential adverse human rights impacts in its operations and supply chain.”
    • Citigroup (and other banks): CtW Investment Group is working with the Service Employees Industrial Union (SEIU) to file a series of shareholder proposals with large commercial banks to disclose their efforts on racial equity. For example, CtW is calling on Citigroup to conduct “an audit that involves consultation with a variety of stakeholders, including employees and community groups” to assess how “products and services have contributed to [racial injustice and economic inequality].”
“Shareholder voting works. Resolutions can deliver everything from decarbonisation targets to healthy eating strategies. Pension fund trustees, you have the power – ask your fund manager to support shareholder resolutions, or switch to a fund manager who lets you set your own policy. Let’s make 2021 the year of stewardship, and push for positive change.”

Guy Opperman MP, UK Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, ShareAction, The ESG resolutions to watch this AGM season (27 March 2021)