Protecting Diversified Portfolios from the Threat of Income Inequality

Poverty wages don’t just undermine workers: income inequality penalizes the national and global economies with losses that will burden investment portfolios for years to come.

Closing the living wage gap worldwide could generate significant increases in the well-being of workers, leading to a more than 4% increase in global GDP.

Investors are capitalizing on this opportunity with a guardrail asking companies to implement pay practices throughout the value chain that create—rather than extract—value. The guardrail provides that companies not only pay a living wage to their employees, but also ensure the same from their contractors and sub-contractors.

UK-based ShareAction is working with the Shareholder Commons on this living wage guardrail campaign, which will be brought to multiple companies in the 2024 proxy season and will address the reality that while poverty wages can increase profits at some companies, they externalize costs that burden investors’ diversified portfolios.

take action

Take action on poverty wages by voting FOR proposals at these upcoming annual meetings.

To support this work, we encourage all investors to:


…In favor of proposals that companies pay a living wage to direct employees and contract workers,

…Against designated directors at companies that fail to pay a living wage to employees and contract workers,


Publicly declare support for Living Wage Guardrail for the express purpose of preserving diversified portfolio value.


If in communication with target companies, reinforce expectation that they comply with the Living Wage Guardrail and indicate support for shareholder proposals/no-votes at non-complying companies. Explain that your concern involves the impact of poverty wages and income inequality on your entire portfolio.

Co-file proposals at target companies.

for asset owners,

Be an active client and..

…Engage with asset managers to push for support on labor initiatives and a Living Wage Guardrail (as an institutional policy, rather than as a carve-out just for the one asset owner).

…Write asset-management mandates to require managers to practice system stewardship. Model language can be found here.

for asset managers,

…Explain the system-stewardship value proposition to clients. The Cambridge Principles frame this concept concisely.

…Engage with proxy advisors about the need for proxy voting advice that supports the value of a client’s entire portfolio.

…Update investment beliefs and proxy voting guidelines to give staff and advisors the direction they need to act on systemic issues, and ensure trustees have accounted for the full effect of their stewardship choices. Model language can be found here.

Learn more

Our new case study—“Living Wage and the Engagement Gap”—establishes the relationship between poverty wages and long-term diversified portfolio returns, and the imperative for investors to act.

To learn more or participate as an investor, or contact us.