Public companies heard plenty from shareholders and shareholder coalitions at their annual meetings this proxy season, including demands for bolder action on climate change, and new priorities like living wages for employees, human rights and political lobbying.
"We believe that one of the most important goals of shareholder advocacy is to raise new ideas for consideration by company management, boards and their shareholders," said Andrew Behar, CEO of shareholder advocacy group As You Sow in Oakland, Calif.
Chubb Ltd. and Travelers Cos. Inc. got the message at their respective annual meetings, where first-time resolutions asking them to disclose the carbon impact of underwriting fossil fuel extraction projects were supported by 72.2% and 55.8% of shareholders, respectively.
"Clearly investors in insurance are very aware of climate risk and sent a strong message," Mr. Behar said.
Amazon.com Inc. and Comcast Corp. earned shareholder praise for ambitious operational climate goals, but criticism for not reflecting that in investment options offered through their 401(k) defined contribution plans, with extensive holdings in fossil fuel firms or agribusinesses with deforestation risk. Shareholder resolutions led by As You Sow earned single-digit support, but enough to pursue engagement and resubmit resolutions next year calling for explanations.
The resolutions called for a report on how the company's current retirement plan options align with its climate action goals, and how it could provide participants more sustainable investment options, including more climate-friendly default options.
Perceived misalignment between corporate policies and actions brought Toyota Motor Co. unwelcome attention from pension fund investors in the U.S. and Europe unhappy with its political lobbying against climate control regulation. A resolution left off the agenda due to a technicality to have Toyota address the disconnect is expected to reappear next year.