Portfolios on the Ballot
Systems-First Voting in 2023
Proxy season allows shareholders to tell companies how they want their capital applied in the real economy. Among other matters, shareholders can press for an end to extractive practices that threaten diversified investors’ financial interests in preserving a resilient economy. Portfolios on the Ballot highlights upcoming 2023 proxy votes that address diversified investors’ common interests in a just and sustainable economy. In particular, POTB identifies:
• Proposals and “vote no” campaigns designed to accelerate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at companies that appear to be prioritizing their own cash flows over the risk that the climate crisis poses to the entire economy (and consequently to diversified portfolios). Matters include both proposals and votes against directors. Companies targeted include ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, and Shell.
• Proposals at Amazon, Meta Platforms, and Alphabet to protect digital and human rights. These companies have created huge enterprise values for themselves but are creating ever-greater risks to the social institutions that sustain a resilient economy. This prioritization of profits over people may increase these companies’ cash flows, but it’s a terrible trade for their diversified shareholders, whose portfolios depend on a thriving economy.
• A proposal at McDonald’s addressing the abuse of antimicrobials in its supply chain. While this practice may improve its margins and thus its share price, it contributes to antimicrobial resistance, a $100 trillion threat to the global economy, and a corresponding risk for the diversified portfolios that rely upon a high-functioning health care system.
• A proposal at State Street, one of the world’s largest asset managers, seeking a report on whether it could serve its clients better by stewarding companies away from practices that threaten the systems that undergird its clients’ diversified portfolios, even when those practices might be financially beneficial to the individual companies.
• A proposal at BlackRock, asking the world’s largest asset manager to report on whether and how it could improve its pension fund clients’ investment returns by stewarding its holdings to “engineer decarbonization in the real economy,” thereby improving financial returns to BlackRock shareholders.
• Proposals at major banks including JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Canada, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup asking them to end fossil-fuel financing that exacerbates systemic risk to diversified portfolios from climate change.
• Proposals asking companies to disclose how paying their workers less than a living wage (Kroger and Dollar Tree) and selling tobacco products (Kroger) externalizes costs onto their shareholders’ diversified portfolios.
• A proposal at Verizon asking it to discontinue political expenditures that may increase its own financial returns at the expense of diversified portfolios.
Together, we're embarking on a fundamental transformation of our financial system...