SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 14, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Institutional investors, in coordination with Rhia Ventures, have filed 11 shareholder proposals for the 2022 proxy season that address the misalignment between the corporation’s stated values and their support for politicians and political groups who undermine them. An additional four proposals focus on companies’ preparedness for the workplace repercussions of the likely overturn of Roe v. Wade in 2022. Collectively, the investors own or manage $11.8 billion in assets.
In the 2021 proxy season, three proposals addressed values misalignment, receiving an average of 38% level of support. (One proposal at Pfizer received over 47% in support.) The strong votes demonstrated that a growing proportion of shareholders want corporations to think twice before funding politicians without regard to their positions on fundamental issues that challenge the sustainability of the workforce, the environment, and our democratic institutions.
After the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, numerous companies vowed to reassess their political giving criteria. Still, numerous companies that pledged to discontinue support for members of Congress who challenged the election results have backtracked on their promises.
The majority of the 2022 proposals call on companies to report publicly at least once a year on “the congruence of political and electioneering expenditures during the preceding year against publicly stated company values and policies and disclosing or summarizing any actions taken regarding pausing or terminating support for organizations or politicians, and the types of incongruent policy advocacy triggering those decisions.” They point to instances where the companies are funding the members of Congress who challenged the election results and those working to erode access to health care (including reproductive health care), slow progress on climate change and restrict voter access to the polls and LGBTQ rights.
The Office of Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner is a co-filer of a shareholder proposal at The Home Depot. The proposal calls attention to the company’s $7.5 million in contributions to politicians and political organizations working to restrict access to abortion in the 2016-2020 election cycles. Some of the same lawmakers the company has supported also voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
“In order for companies to deliver long-term financial value to investors – including the 60,000 members of the Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island and all Rhode Island taxpayers, they must support democracy and the rule of law,” said Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. “As Treasurer, I will hold the companies that we invest in accountable for their political spending to strengthen the pension fund that Rhode Islanders and their families rely on for retirement security and strengthen our economy for the long term.”
Elise Belusa, acting director of Tara Health Foundation, commented, “As we enter a new year that will bring more challenges to access to reproductive health, it is increasingly important for companies to be bold and protect this care for their employees and all those in their networks.” Tara Health co-filed The Home Depot proposal and has re-submitted last year’s proposal to Pfizer for this year’s proxy.
Four additional proposals address the pressures companies face due to restrictive reproductive health care legislation regarding employee well-being, recruitment, and retention. They call on companies to provide a report publicly on “any known and any potential risks and costs to the company caused by enacted or proposed state policies severely restricting reproductive health care, and detailing any strategies…that the company may deploy to minimize or mitigate these risks.” Rhia Ventures director of corporate engagement Shelley Alpern said that this reporting to shareholders is needed because “Employers, as well as employees, bear these costs. Women who can’t access abortion are three times more likely to leave the workforce than those who can. State-level abortion restrictions keep 500,000 or more women in their childbearing years out of the workforce.”
The Educational Foundation of America (EFA) has filed three proposals for investors’ consideration in 2022. “We’re not convinced that companies are actively thinking about, much less preparing for, the harms that employees will face if Roe v. Wade is overturned or critically weakened. Our proposal at Lowe’s Companies describes some of these impacts and the repercussions on the company,” noted David Stocks, EFA’s Executive Director.
Rhia Ventures is a nonprofit organization developing a vibrant sexual, reproductive, and maternal health market that contributes to equitable outcomes for all women and other birthing people in the US. Rhia uses complementary strategies to transform this market, including direct investment, technical assistance, field building, and corporate engagement.
Tara Health Foundation aims to improve the health and well-being of women and girls in the U.S. through the creative use of philanthropic capital.
Rhode Island’s pension fund holds shares in thousands of companies in its investment portfolio. Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner uses the influence of the state’s pension fund to compel companies to adopt more responsible corporate practices by introducing resolutions that promote social and environmental responsibility as well as customer safety, workers’ rights, and corporate diversity at companies’ annual meetings for the consideration and approval of other shareholders.
The Educational Foundation of America (EFA) is a family foundation that envisions a society in which every person has a meaningful voice in inclusive democracy, with unrestricted access to complete reproductive freedom, and lives in creative, thriving communities on a healthy, regenerative planet.
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SOURCE Rhia Ventures