More than 400 ESG shareholder resolutions have been filed this proxy season, and many are headed for votes at corporate annual meetings, according to the Proxy Preview 2020 report being released Thursday.
Two-thirds of the 429 filings address climate change, political spending and treatment of women on boards and in the workplace, according to the report released by As You Sow, the Sustainable Investments Institute and Proxy Impact. More than 300 of the 429 proposals are expected to be voted on this spring.
Preview co-author Heidi Welsh, executive director of the Sustainable Investments Institute, said that investors are increasingly pushing for companies to address those topics, even as the SEC works on changing the rules for the shareholder proposal process, despite strong opposition by many investor groups.
"Companies (that) don't want to publicly air these matters on their proxy ballots may get what they want in the rule this spring, but curtailing shareholder rights doesn't mean these risks will evaporate. The ultimate outcome will depend on litigation and the 2020 election results," Ms. Welsh said in a statement.
Referring to a recent policy change by the Business Roundtable to endorse stakeholder capitalism, driven in part by shareholder advocacy, As You Sow CEO Andrew Behar said in the same statement that the 2020 proxy season "will test if investors and companies will help define a new economic paradigm or if these endorsements are just empty words."