More companies are committing to transparency and action on climate change and other ESG issues but shareholders are expected to push for more specific action in the 2021 proxy season, according to the Proxy Preview 2021 report released Thursday.
The joint effort from As You Sow, Sustainable Investments Institute and Proxy Impact found that of 435 shareholder resolutions already filed, about 300 are headed for votes at spring corporate annual meetings.
Though climate change remains a priority, the pace of climate change proposals is changing as companies respond to shareholder demands for action. There are 78 such proposals, compared to 87 last year, while climate lobbying disclosure is emerging as a new concern.
The number of proposals on workplace diversity more than doubled from 2020.
Companies gained an advantage in 2020 with new Securities and Exchange Commission rules that made it harder to file and resubmit shareholder resolutions and restricted proxy advisory firms and proxy voting by some pension funds, the report noted. Challenges to those rules are expected.
With Democrats now controlling the White House and Congress and "the pendulum swinging to more regulation, early signs suggest more companies will try to show they are on board with the new administration, but the shareholder proposals aim to put meat on the bones of pledges for transparency and action," said Heidi Welsh, executive director of the Sustainable Investments Institute and co-author of Proxy Preview 2021.
In 2021, "shareholder proponents expect escalated action and not just words," As You Sow CEO Andrew Behar said in a statement.