Every year from April to June, publicly traded companies hold their annual shareholder meetings, in which every investor with a financial stake in the company votes on a series of resolutions, many of which are introduced by shareholders themselves. This voting period is known as “Proxy Season.”
The number of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) resolutions introduced in 2022 signals a rising level of engagement by shareholders that appears promising; the number of ESG shareholder proposals rose 20% since 2021, for a total of 529 ESG shareholder resolutions filed in 2022. Within that, proposals centered on climate change, human rights, and discrimination concerns spiked even more. Climate change and sustainability resolutions made up the largest proportion of ESG resolutions introduced in 2022, at 24%. Human rights resolutions made up an additional 15%, and racial equity and diversity resolutions accounted for an additional 14%.
This report analyzes the data on Colorado’s Public Employees’ Retirement Association’s (PERA’s) 2022 proxy votes, in an effort to evaluate their shareholder engagement with regard to climate change, human rights, and racial justice concerns. It provides data on the general distribution of PERA’s votes across big banks, fossil fuel companies, insurance companies, and the top 100 Fortune 500 companies.
We find PERA’s 2022 proxy votes to show a disappointing lack of engagement on climate change, human rights, and racial justice concerns, with PERA voting “No” on these ESG resolutions 61% of the time. While we do find some instances where PERA deviates from management recommendations (which advocate a “No” vote on nearly all ESG resolutions proposed), we conclude that PERA far too often votes against policies to support climate action, human rights, and racial justice.
In light of this report, we call on the PERA board to adopt proxy voting procedures which align their votes with promoting climate action, human rights, and racial justice. While we encourage PERA to use their shareholder power to push the companies in which they invest to behave more ethically, we also acknowledge that shareholder engagement alone falls short as a strategy to tangibly promote these goals. Thus, we urge additional action, by way of removing investments in fossil fuel companies, to ensure that PERA directly addresses the climate and human rights impacts of their investments.
Read the full report: Colorado PERA’s 2022 Shareholder Votes Fail to Address Climate Change, Discrimination, and Human Rights