Submitted by: Domini Social Investments
Categories: Corporate Governance
Posted: May 13, 2003 – 12:00 AM EST
Socially Responsible Investment Firm’s Proxy Voting Guidelines Now Address
Risks of Corporate Water Use and Expensing of Stock Options
Socially Responsible Investment Firm’s Proxy Voting Guidelines Now Address
May 13 /CSRwire/ -
Domini Social Investments, manager of the Domini Social Equity Fund (NASDQ: DSEFX), the nation’s oldest and largest socially responsible index fund, filed twelve shareholder proposals to be voted on at annual stockholder meetings during the 2003 proxy season, on issues ranging from recycling to divestment of tobacco stocks. Domini works with a range of NGOs, socially responsible institutional investors, and religious investors on its dialogues and shareholder proposal filings.
Domini also announced that it successfully withdrew four proposals after receiving a positive response from company management, and is currently in dialogue with six additional corporations. Corporations receiving resolutions from Domini this season include AT&T, Avon Products, Coca-Cola, Cooper Industries, Emerson Electric, Federal Express, Illinois Tool Works, Marsh & McLennan, Oxford Health Plans, PepsiCo, Pepsi Americas, and Sears.
Domini Releases New Proxy Voting Guidelines Booklet
Details on these resolutions can be found in the just-published eighth edition of Domini’s Proxy Voting Guidelines & Shareholder Activism. This 40-page booklet also includes a complete listing of the more than 60 shareholder proposals Domini has filed from 1994-2002, and outlines the policies that guide its voting on more than 100 social, environmental, and corporate governance issues. The booklet explains how Domini uses direct dialogue, shareholder resolutions, and proxy voting to encourage positive change at corporations in its portfolios.
New voting guidelines include:
Proxy Voting Guidelines & Shareholder Activism is available free of charge by calling 1-800-225-3863, or it may be downloaded from Domini’s website at www.domini.com.
Domini has published comprehensive voting guidelines regularly since 1992, and in 2001 it filed a successful petition with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), calling for all mutual funds to be required to disclose their proxy voting policies and voting records. In 1999, Domini became the first mutual fund manager in the country to publicly disclose its proxy votes. All of Domini’s current proxy votes are posted at www.domini.com.
“A Very Active Year”
“This has been a very active year for shareholder activism,” said Adam Kanzer, Domini’s General Counsel and Director of Shareholder Advocacy. “The corporate scandals of the past couple of years have motivated shareholders to become more involved in the corporate governance process by filing shareholder resolutions and voting their proxies, whether the issue is executive compensation or sweatshops, the independence of board members or environmental stewardship.”
Domini’s shareholder resolutions for the 2003 proxy season are summarized below.
Details of This Year’s Resolutions by Domini
Parabens and Breast Cancer
Domini filed a resolution with Avon Products asking the company to study the feasibility of replacing parabens with alternative substances in its cosmetics. Parabens are preservatives that have been recently shown to mimic estrogen in the body. Because exposure to other estrogen-mimicking substances has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer, there is reason to suspect that parabens may do so as well. The resolution received a vote of 6.18% at the company’s annual meeting on May 1, twice the percentage necessary to place the resolution on the ballot next year. When abstentions are counted, slightly more than 11% of the vote was not cast with management.
“Avon has been a leader in the fight against breast cancer, and has donated millions of dollars to breast cancer research,” said Mr. Kanzer. “The company has closely tied itself to the fight against breast cancer. As investors, we are concerned that the presence of chemicals in its products that could be harmful to women’s health poses severe risk to the company’s good name, and to shareholder value.”
Pension Plan Fairness
For the third year in a row, Domini filed a resolution asking AT&T to address inequities created by the company’s switch from a traditional pension plan to a cash balance plan, and asking affected employees to be given a choice between the two plans. Domini argues that the method AT&T used to convert its plan deprives older workers of the benefit of their additional years of service and their peak earning years, and that it risks damage to employee morale and to the company’s bottom line, as AT&T’s most experienced managers leave the company for early retirement, or to work for competitors.
Climate Change and Financial Risk
Domini and Walden Asset Management filed a resolution asking Marsh & McLennan to consider risks to its investment and insurance operations associated with global climate change. The resolution was withdrawn when the company agreed to begin a dialogue with Domini and Walden. The proposal states that such risks include climate-related losses, expenses from future regulation and taxes on greenhouse gases, potential future litigation, reputational risk for companies perceived to be causing climate change, and missed business opportunities.
Domini is part of a coalition of socially responsible investors in ongoing dialogue with Coca-Cola and PepsiCo on their recycling programs. Domini filed resolutions with PepsiCo (as co-lead filer), Pepsi Americas, a producer and distributor of PepsiCo products (as lead filer), and Coca-Cola Co. (as co-filer), asking the companies to increase their commitment to the use of recycled content. Although two of the resolutions were disallowed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, both Pepsi and Coke have committed to include 10% recycled content in their plastic soda and water bottles by 2005. Pepsi’s commitment affects the U.S. while Coke’s extends to all of North America.
Together with Walden Asset Management, Domini co-filed a resolution asking Federal Express to adopt a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The effort was a success, and the resolution was withdrawn when FedEx agreed to amend its policy. For the third year in a row, together with the Pride Foundation, Domini co-filed a similar resolution with Emerson Electric. The resolution received a vote of 9.86% this year, just short of the 10% needed for it to be submitted again next year.
Domini announced that it is engaged in dialogue with six additional companies: Procter & Gamble (on Fair Trade coffee and recycled content), the Gap, Nordstrom, McDonald’s, and Walt Disney (on labor standards), and Merrill Lynch (on environmental issues).
This year Domini embarked on a new project with the Gap to help develop a model public reporting format so that Gap consumers and investors will be able to gauge the company’s performance as it works to establish compliance with its code of conduct in the thousands of factories worldwide that produce its products.
About Domini Social Investments
Domini Social Investments manages more than $1.3 billion in assets for individual and institutional investors seeking to create positive change in society by integrating social and environmental criteria into their investment decisions. Its flagship fund, the Domini Social Equity Fund (NASDQ: DSEFX), was the first socially and environmentally screened index fund and is the nation’s largest socially responsible index fund. The Fund seeks to include companies with positive records in community involvement, the environment, diversity, and employee relations, and excludes companies deriving significant revenues from alcohol, tobacco, gambling, nuclear power, and weapons contracting. In addition to the Domini Social Equity Fund, the company also offers the Domini Social Bond Fund (NASDQ: DSBFX) and an FDIC-insured money market account (in partnership with ShoreBank), both of which focus on community economic development.
Additional information on Domini Social Investments is available on the firm’s website, www.domini.com. Domini’s eighth annual 40-page Proxy Voting Guidelines & Shareholder Activism booklet is also available free of charge by calling 1-800-225-3863.
The Domini Funds are subject to market risks and are not insured. You may lose money. The Domini Social Equity Fund invests in the Domini Social Index Portfolio. As of 3/31/03, the following companies represented the stated percentages of the Domini Social Index Portfolio: AT&T (0.30%), Avon Products (0.32%), Coca-Cola (2.36%), Cooper Industries (0.08%), Emerson Electric (0.45%), Federal Express (0.39%), the Gap (0.30%), Illinois Tool Works (0.42%), Marsh & McLennan (0.54%), McDonald’s (0.43%), Merrill Lynch (0.73%), Nordstrom (0.05%), Oxford Health Plans (0.06%), PepsiCo (1.63%), Pepsi Americas (0.04%), Procter & Gamble (2.72%), Sears (0.18%), and Walt Disney (0.82%). The composition of the Fund's portfolio is subject to change. This commentary should not be considered a recommendation of the financial attractiveness as an investment of any of the issuers mentioned. Some of the Domini Social Bond Fund’s community investments may be unrated and carry greater credit risks than its other investments. Please obtain a prospectus by calling 1-800-762-6814 or online at www.domini.com. Read it carefully before you invest or send money. DSIL Investment Services LLC (DSILD), Distributor. The Domini Social Equity Fund is not affiliated with any bank and is not insured. DSILD, ShoreBank and Walden Asset Management are not affiliated.
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