Investors approve ESG proposals at Lowe’s, Twitter, Travelers

know about Investors approve ESG proposals at Lowe’s, Twitter, Travelers

A handful of ESG-themed shareholder proposals passed with majority approval recently at companies like Lowe’s, Twitter and Travelers, in one of the busiest periods of a historic representation season.

In general, the majority of the votes did not go in favor of the proposals presented by the shareholders, but many more have appeared on the ballots than ever before.

In previous years, it was almost unheard of for shareholder resolutions to pass, especially those with ESG themes, although minority votes with considerable support are still sometimes seen as a message from investors that management should heed. That makes the results seen during the current performance season particularly significant.

Lowe’s, for example, saw its shareholders approve a measure introduced by Arjuna Capital that called for the company to report median and adjusted pay gaps for gender and race. Disney investors approved a similar move in March.

“Investors expect a new racial and gender pay equity accountability standard and Lowe’s board heard that message loud and clear today,” Natasha Lamb, managing partner at Arjuna, said in a statement. “Managing pay equity not only supports Lowe’s diversity and inclusion goals, it will also enable the company to attract and retain diverse talent, positioning the company for stronger performance.”

That was the only shareholder resolution passed at Lowe’s, though several others were filed, including what appears to be the first proxy vote related to the leaked US Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. Lowe’s had not publicly reported the margins of the votes as of Thursday.

Other recent proxy votes have focused on greenhouse gas emissions reporting, net-zero emissions goals, plastic pollution, lobbying activity, blackout clauses, and racial justice.

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“So far there are 17 majority votes, up from 39 all of last year, but there are many that have yet to be counted, some this week and next,” said Heidi Welsh, executive director of the Sustainable Investment Institute, in a statement. email. “The most surprising thing to me is the half dozen that investors approved seeking racial justice audits. The capital markets clearly show their support for corporate efforts to address racial justice, a persistent problem for the United States.”

Shareholder resolutions related to racial justice garnered majority support in recent proxy votes at Johnson & Johnson, Apple, Home Depot, Waste Management, Altria and Maximus, Welsh noted.

CHASING INSURERS

Some 56% of Travelers shareholders voted on May 25 in favor of a greenhouse gas emissions reduction proposal put forward by As You Sow. That firm had filed similar resolutions in Chubb, which won with 72% of the vote, and Berkshire Hathaway, which came in with a little less than half, with 47%.

how do you sow The resolution asked Travelers to report on the efforts it is making to measure, disclose and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with underwriting, insurance or investment, in accordance with the Paris Agreement. The insurer is among the top three companies providing coverage for the oil and gas industry, As You Sow noted.

“Without a clearly established climate strategy, Travelers will continue to drive climate risk to investors, insurers and the global economy,” As You Sow president Danielle Fugere said in a statement.

Tackling greenhouse gas emissions through insurance companies underwriting new supplies of fossil fuels is a new tactic in the ESG world. Green Century Capital Management submitted three such proposals, in Travelers, Chubb and The Hartford. All of those resolutions, including the May 25 Travelers’ Vote, received only minority support.

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In the Travelers vote, for example, just over 13% of shareholders voted in favor.

“The results of the vote are in line with our expectations for this first-of-its-kind proposal with insurance companies, and we are very pleased with the initial support,” said Green Century President and ESG Clarity Committee member Leslie Samuelrich said in a statement. “If companies don’t take action, the support was strong enough to allow us to resubmit proposals next year.”

It has been more common for shareholders to go after banks that support the development of new fossil fuels.

“The insurance angle is new,” Welsh said, noting that institutional investors, through large funds, have not bought into the idea. “That’s not to say that no one thinks climate change has been sufficiently addressed, and all major investors remain deeply concerned about the financial impacts of climate change.”

RECENT RESULTS

Proxy votes were held last week in TwitterAmazon, Meta, Chevron, ExxonMobil, McDonald’s, Dollar General and Flowers Foods, in addition to Lowe’s and Travelers.

On Twitter, two shareholder resolutions were approved, one requesting the company to report on the risks associated with the use of concealment clauses and another on electoral spending. However, other resolutions on civil rights auditing and lobbying were not passed.

Among the eight shareholder resolutions filed at Facebook’s parent company, Meta, none received majority support. Those resolutions included requests for reports on cover-up clauses, external costs of disinformation, enforcement of content standards, human rights, child exploitation, lobbying, and charitable donations.

Similarly, no shareholder proposal in Amazon won majority support. That company held proxy votes on the pay gap report, warehouse working conditions, lobbying, a report on their retirement plan investment options and other topics.

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Vote counts for McDonald’s shareholder resolutions weren’t filed with the SEC until Thursday. Last week, shareholders voted on proposals on reporting on the use of plastics, antibiotic use, gestation crates for pigs, a third-party civil rights audit, lobbying and global public policy and political influence.

OIL AND GAS

A exxonmobile, voters overwhelmingly approved one of the five shareholder resolutions filed at the company. They rejected measures that called for Exxon to reduce hydrocarbon emissions and sales, report low-carbon business planning, report plastic production and disclose political contributions. But shareholders approved a proposal on scenario analysis, which was submitted by Christian Brothers Investment Services. That resolution asked the company to seek an audited report on how the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero plan for 2050 will affect Exxon’s assumptions, costs, estimates and valuations.

“Investors are concerned that the continued development of new fossil fuel resources will increase the risk of such future declines,” that proposal stated. “ExxonMobil’s existing audited annual disclosures do not provide investors with sufficient insight into the risk of stranded assets related to the energy transition.”

Similarly, most shareholder resolutions in Chevron failed to win majority support. Investors made proposals calling for greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, a report on the impact of a net-zero emissions scenario by 2050, a report on doing business with governments complicit in conflict, and a racial equity audit, the latest of which obtained 48% in favor.

Meanwhile, 98% of shareholders approved a proposal calling for a report on the reliability of methane emissions disclosures.

This story was originally published on ESG Clarity.