Environmental Issues

Climate change continues to be central to most of shareholder proponents’ concerns on the environment. The climate conversation in the proxy process remains focused on greenhouse gas emissions management, Paris-compliant transition planning and carbon asset risk, with these subjects accounting for three-quarters of the 58 proposals filed. The overall figure is down from 82 last year and in 2017, and from 90 in 2016, although most broadly construed sustainability proposals that include greenhouse gas goals references mean the drop is not as steep as it might appear. Many companies have begun to take actions to address climate change risks, as well, thinning the list of targets; others also are engaging in ongoing dialogue with investors about how to address climate change risks and opportunities, meaning a shareholder resolution is less likely. (Last year, proponents withdrew more resolutions than went to votes. See graph below.) Environmental management issues outside the climate change framework include 13 proposals this year, down from 31 last year and two dozen in 2016. Another eight proposals address industrial food production.

(The section on Sustainable Governance examines 44 related reporting proposals, most of which also request more transparency from companies about environmental management at their own operations and in their supply chains, in conjunction with reporting on social and other issues.)