The 2022 proxy season is the busiest ever, with shareholders set to vote on a flurry of new environmental and social proposals. It is also a turning point for shareholders hoping to push companies on ESG, as more ambitious shareholder proposals meet concerns about the global economy.
Shareholders submitted a record number of proposals to U.S. companies this year, riding the tailwinds of the successes of the 2021 proxy season and benefitting from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s revised guidance that made it tougher for companies to restrict proposals from ballots. Some long-term shareholder took the opportunity to push companies to raise their ambition on environmental and social issues, but this annual meeting season has also seen shareholders reluctant to support those more ambitious proposals. Case in point: Politically conservative shareholder groups submitted a record number of their own proposals this year, seeking to rein in the process.
This proxy season, however, is moving ahead, and it is far from business as usual. Investors are reviewing a higher quantity of proposals and also looking at bolder proposals across new focus areas from social justice to carbon accounting.
First the numbers:
- 924 ESG proposals were submitted to companies this year, a record number, according to data tracked by investor intelligence firm Georgeson. Because some proposals are usually withdrawn after companies and shareholders negotiate, when all is said and done, about 621 proposals are likely to have been put in front of shareholders at U.S. companies in 2022, up from about 400 in 2021, Georgeson said.
- Shareholder proposals on environmental and social issues are getting less support in early voting. Semler Brossy reports the number of social and environmental proposals that received majority support from shareholders so far this year is down 11 percentage points and 20 percentage points, respectively, compared to the same period last yea
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