SRI Update: Corporate Dialogues and Shareholder Resolutions

March 27, 2018

Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) refers to investment strategies that seek not only to provide financial return but also the process of selecting companies in which to invest in that have sustainable and ethical environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices.

As a leader in SRI, United Church Funds (UCF) makes it a priority to thoughtfully and effectively respond to urgent calls for social action from the United Church of Christ, our investors and other SRI partners. UCF implements three SRI strategies: shareholder engagement, proxy voting and exclusionary screening.

UCF is pleased to share positive updates on our work in corporate dialogues and shareholder resolutions.

ENVIRONMENT

Water, Indigenous Peoples Rights

For the second year, UCF co-filed a resolution calling on Marathon Petroleum to prepare a report to shareholders. The requested report would describe the due diligence process used to identify and address environmental and social risks, including Indigenous rights risk, in reviewing potential acquisitions after the company’s involvement in the Dakota Access Pipeline and the subsequent protests and violence with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Marathon Petroleum implemented the following changes on its website:

  • A new tab was added to the dropdown menu under “Corporate Citizenship” and labeled Human Rights and Core Values.
  • Corporate core values now include Health and Safety, Environmental Stewardship, Integrity, Corporate Citizenship and an Inclusive Culture. Click here to read the complete statement regarding human rights and core values.

In exchange for these changes to the corporation’s policies and disclosures, the lead filer – The New York State Comptroller’s Office – withdrew the resolution. Once a lead filler has withdrawn a resolution, co-filers are obliged to withdraw as well.

Proxy Voting Policies

BNY Mellon has a poor record of voting for environmental resolutions, which is consistent with the services and data the company provides to its clients regarding environmental, social and governance. UCF again co-filed a resolution regarding how companies vote for shareholder proposals at their annual meetings. UCF intends to attend BNY Mellon’s annual meeting in April.

SOCIAL

Investors for Opioid Accountability

UCF is part of a 44-member investor coalition seeking governance changes in the opioid manufacturing and distribution sector. The coalition has already celebrated some wins:

  • Separation of Chair and CEO (Cardinal Health, McKesson)
  • Independent Director Report on Opioid Oversight (Cardinal Health, Endo, McKesson)
  • Misconduct Clawbacks (Cardinal Health, Endo)
  • Corporate Spending Disclosure (Endo, Mallinckrodt)

Drug Pricing

UCF is the lead filer at AbbVie and is part of a contingent of investors seeking executive compensation plans of pharmaceutical companies to reward innovation and public good, rather than rewarding drug price increases.

Examples of some compensation arrangements that suggest a long-term focus on value generation include:

  • Choices made around pay metrics or performance measurement period, for example drug development milestones, targets for R&D investing, meeting set targets for pricing thresholds to mitigate risks and clawbacks
  • Adjustments to metrics to limit the impact of price increases such as we have seen in share buybacks; and
  • Consideration in qualitative individual performance assessments such as whether individuals meet certain behavioral ethics and compliance standards.

Global Health

Several pharma companies have been engaged for their involvement about their policies that provide low- and middle-income countries access to the treatments they develop to combat the World Health Organization’s list of high priority disease states. Eli Lilly, AbbVie and Merck have indicated that they will no longer submit to the Access to Medicines Index, which quantifies how well pharma companies structure and execute their access programs.

Human Rights in Occupied Territories

UCF is acting as the lead on a letter campaign to the HP companies to seek further information after the companies’ spinoffs about where business units that had human rights implications in the Occupied Territories.

GOVERNANCE

Ethical Business Standards

UCF, as part of a group of shareholders, withdrew a resolution with Wells Fargo after the company agreed in a meeting on October 18, 2017, to issue a report detailing the outcomes of a business standards review. Shareholders seek to avoid further lending scandals with the company.

Click here to learn more about SRI at UCF or contact us at info@ucfunds.org to discuss on how to align your investments with your values.

 
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