Tag Archives | Domini Social Investments

Lowe’s Joins Home Depot, Whole Foods, etc. to Protect Bees

BeeLet’s see more good news like the following:

Friends of the Earth, Domini Social Investments and Trillium Asset Management praised Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW) for making a commitment to eliminate neonicotinoid pesticides — a leading contributor to global bee declines — from its stores.

After input from suppliers, NGOs, investors and other key stakeholders, the company announced it will phase out neonicotinoids (“neonics”) as suitable alternatives become available, redouble existing integrated pest management practices for suppliers and provide additional material educating customers about pollinator health.  Said Adam Kanzer, Managing Director and Director of Corporate Engagement at Domini Social Investments: Continue Reading →

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Corporate Tax Strategies Threaten Wealth Creation: Fiduciaries Must Consider the Impact on Society

Adam Kanzer

Adam Kanzer

Guest Post by Adam M. Kanzer, managing director and general counsel of Domini Social Investments LLC, New York. His responsibilities include directing Domini’s shareholder advocacy department, where for more than ten years he has led numerous dialogues with corporations on a wide range of social and environmental issues. The following originally appeared under the same title in the May 14, 2014 edition of Pensions & Investment. I added a few additional links.

Google Inc. shareholders May 14 rejected by a 93% vote a proposal sponsored by my firm, seeking the adoption of a responsible code of conduct to guide the company’s global tax strategies. I suspect this proposal prompted a quizzical reaction from many investors who assume that minimizing corporate tax payments is good for shareholders. An April 28 Pensions & Investments editorial, Tax exempt but tax conscious, wrestled with this issue, ultimately concluding fiduciaries could not ask companies to pay more. Continue Reading →

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Ground-Breaking Proxy Proposals Headed to Shareowner Vote

Climate Change Portfolio Exposure

Boston Common Asset Management has a proposal that will appear on the proxy of PNC Financial Services ($PNC) requesting that it report to shareowners on the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from its lending portfolio and its exposure to climate change risk in its lending, investing, and financing activities. Watch for your proxy. The annual meeting will be held on April 23, 2012. According to the proposal, Continue Reading →

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Investors Challenge Companies with Chamber Directors

Many investors have been deeply concerned over a number of actions by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, particularly lobbying and actions that undercut environmental and sustainability initiatives that are supported by numerous forward looking companies. Yet many of these same companies sit on the Board of the Chamber and participate in making and supporting their policy and programs.

In letters sent to 35 major companies serving on the Board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber), 44 investors and investment organizations, representing approximately $43 billion in assets, urged company managements to evaluate their role and to assess the risks and benefits of Board membership. In particular, the investors pointed to the significant risks posed by misalignment between company and Chamber policy objectives as well as the Chamber’s aggressively partisan role in electoral politics.

The Chamber has been criticized by many in recent years for its obstructive positions on climate change legislation, the healthcare and financial reform bills enacted in 2010, and most recently, for its partisan political spending reported to be $75 million in the 2010 elections.

The open letter was led by Walden Asset Management, a division of Boston Trust & Investment Management Company. Timothy Smith, Walden’s Senior Vice President and Director of ESG Shareowner Engagement stated,

This coalition of concerned investors, including investment firms, mutual funds and religious investors as well as Common Cause and the AFL-CIO, believe the Chamber’s work and message often contradicts what companies tell their investors and customers about their progress to protect our planet and act as responsible corporate citizens.

This investor outreach is especially timely since in November the Chamber announced a new anti-regulatory campaign, an initiative requiring the organization to raise millions of dollars from its membership. The Chamber’s effort focuses on weakening, delaying or defeating new laws and regulations, such as those promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate climate warming greenhouse gases. The Chamber bylaws state clearly:

Directors determine the U.S. Chamber’s policy positions on business issues and advise the U.S. Chamber on appropriate strategies to pursue. Through their participation in meetings and activities held across the nation, Directors help implement and promote U.S. Chamber policies and objectives.

Adam Kanzer, General Counsel at Domini Social Investments commented,

The Chamber claims that its board members set policy, and yet the Chamber’s policies often directly contradict the policies of the companies serving as board members. We’re asking companies to face these contradictions and address them. If they tell investors that a particular policy objective is important to the business, we think it is fair to ask why the Chamber is working to achieve the opposite outcome. As the Chamber commences an aggressive program challenging new and necessary regulation, being a silent or passive member of the Chamber Board is not responsible governance.

The following companies received the letter (Sample Letter to Companies with Board Members on Chamber Board): Accenture, JPMorgan Chase, Alcoa, Lockheed Martin, Allstate, 3M, , Anheuser-Busch, Melaleuca, A.O. Smith, New York Life Insurance, AT&T, Peabody Energy, Caterpillar, PepsiCo, Charles Schwab, Pfizer, ConocoPhillips, Ryder System, CVS / Caremark, Southern Company, Deere, Spencer Stuart, Dow Chemical, State Farm Insurance, Duke Energy, The Travelers Companies, Eastman Kodak, United Parcel Service, Emerson Electric, Verizon Communications, FedEx, WellPoint, International Business Machines, Xerox Corporation.

As Ron Freund, of the Social Equity Group, pointed out in a recent post (Shareholders Can End Political Ad Secrecy) that TV stations run several risks when they accept political hit ads from sources that don’t fully disclose contributors. Companies whose members sit on the Chamber Board could face similar liabilities.

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How I'd Vote at Coke

As can be seen from the list of stocks I own, I don’t have any direct investments in Coca Cola (KO). However, I do have indirect holdings through my pension at CalPERS and through several mutual funds and a strong longstanding concern about the safety of Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical used in the epoxy lining of Coca-Cola’s canned beverages.

Domini Social Investments, As You Sow, and Trillium Asset Management Corporation filed the first shareowner proposal focused solely on BPA at Coke, asking for a study updating investors on how the company is responding to the public policy challenges associated with BPA, including summarizing what the company is doing to maintain its position of leadership and public trust on this issue, the company’s role in adopting or encouraging development of alternatives to BPA.

Scientific studies indicate that BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that mimics estrogen in the body. Numerous animal studies link BPA, even at very low doses, to changes in brain structure, immune system, and male and female reproductive systems changes. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association links BPA exposures in humans to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and liver enzyme abnormalities. Health Canada, a Canadian federal agency has warned that BPA can leach into beverages.

Manufacturers of baby and sports bottles have been eliminating BPA-containing plastics from their product lines. Eden Foods has been using BPA-free cans since 1999 and General Mills recently announced that the company will offer alternative can linings that do not use BPA for their organic canned tomatoes, so substitutes can be found.

There are additional shareowner proposals on the ballot seeking an advisory vote on executive pay, requiring an independent board chairman and performance-based equity awards. All should be supported. I’m delighted that CalPERS is voting in favor of all the resolutions and is also withholding votes from directors B. Diller and J. Wallenberg for serving on too many boards.

Need more voting advice on Coke? Check out ProxyDemocracy.org.

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