Shareholder proposals on social and environmental issues received an average 13.4% of the shares voted — the highest level ever — for the 177 proposals that came to a vote for the first six months of the year, said Meg Voorhes, director of the Social Issues Service of Institutional Shareholder Services.
"If it holds" for the rest of the year, "it will be an all-time record" for the level of support, she said, noting that some 90% of the companies have already held their annual meetings this year. The highest average level of support for social and environmental proposals for an entire year is 11.9% in 2003, when 145 such proposals came to a vote, she said.
Only one social or environmental shareholder proposal received a majority vote as of June 30, Ms. Voorhes said: Amgen Inc. shareholders voted 75.5% in favor of a proposal sponsored by Green Century Balanced Fund for disclosure of political contributions made with corporate funds. Amgen's board endorsed the proposal.
Shareholder proposals on social and environmental issues received more support than in any other proxy season, with 27% of the resolutions that came for a vote achieving at least 15% of the shares voted, she said. By contrast, for all of 2004 and 2005, only 15% of the social and environmental issues proposals that came to votes achieved at least 15% support of shares voted, according to ISS data.
Ms. Voorhes attributed the upswing in support in part to efforts involving public pension funds, more positive reaction from proxy-advisory services and growing shareholder, and corporate awareness with these issues and their potential impact on shareholder value.