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Proxy Voting: One More Tool to Align Your Investments to Your Values

Mark Bateman - March 9, 2018

Proxy voting—voting shares at company annual meetings to elect directors to the company board and set other policy directions— is often described as a primary activity for responsible investors.  We’re currently approaching prime annual meeting season, which means proxy voting is about to kick into high gear.

Some very active responsible investors work to file shareholder resolutions for companies every year.  These investors are religious investors, self-described socially responsible mutual funds, large institutional investors (like state pension plans), and some individuals.

For a look at resolutions filed with companies for 2018, see the Proxy Preview.  Here are some highlights:

  • 429 resolutions on social and environmental issues have been filed with companies. (as of February 16, 2018)
  • With a shareholder resolution pending from As You Sow, an activist organization, McDonald’s agreed to remove polystyrene from use. As You Sow withdrew its resolution.
  • New York City pension funds are asking that corporate board nominees’ gender, race, and ethnicity be disclosed by companies in the proxy statement.
  • Climate change and political activity are the topics with the largest number of proposals, with 68 and 73 (respectively) still pending as of the Preview’s publication.
  • Other topics with resolutions still pending include: sustainability (43), Board oversight/diversity (39), workplace diversity (22), human rights (20), health (9).
  • Most shareholder resolutions on social and environmental issues come from a liberal or progressive point of view, but conservative organizations have started to file resolutions as well, with 4 still pending.

Every mutual fund has been required to publish how it votes its proxies since 2004.  If there are specific proxy voting issues that are important to you, researching the proxy voting of your mutual funds might be worthwhile.  Using the Proxy Preview, you can get sense of which resolutions and which companies might serve as a bell weather for you on a fund’s approach to proxy voting.

It’s fairly easy to find the proxy voting reports of mutual funds, which is a form NP-X.  Once you do, search for a company or issue in which your interested to see how the fund voted.

Here are some links to large mutual fund families proxy voting reports: