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U.S. ESG shareholder resolutions up 22% to record level for 2022, study finds

Reuters logo Reuters 3/17/2022 By Ross Kerber
A man wears a mask as he walks near the NYSE in New York © Reuters/Brendan McDermid A man wears a mask as he walks near the NYSE in New York

By Ross Kerber

(Reuters) - U.S. corporations face an unprecedented wave of shareholder resolutions focused on ESG themes for 2022, a new review shows, as activists look to build on favorable regulatory changes and more executives seem willing to make deals.

Shareholders have filed a record 529 resolutions related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues for the annual meetings of publicly traded U.S. companies so far this year, up 22% from the same point in 2021, according to a study released Thursday by activist group As You Sow and researchers including the Sustainable Investments Institute.

FILE PHOTO: JP Morgan Chase & Co sign outside headquarters in New York © Reuters/Mike Segar FILE PHOTO: JP Morgan Chase & Co sign outside headquarters in New York

Many seek details on carbon emissions or workforce diversity. Successes activists scored last year such as changing directors at Exxon Mobil Corp could make directors look at proposed changes more favorably, said sponsors of the review.

"Companies are realizing that their investors want them to have less risk," said Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow. He and others said shareholders may benefit from new guidance from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission which makes it harder for companies to skip votes.

FILE PHOTO: JP Morgan Chase & Co sign outside headquarters in New York © Reuters/Mike Segar FILE PHOTO: JP Morgan Chase & Co sign outside headquarters in New York

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Wins for activists so far this year include a March 4 vote at the annual meeting of fast food company Jack in the Box Inc, where 95% of votes cast were in favor of a resolution dealing with sustainable packaging sponsored by Green Century Capital Management.

Jack in the Box had recommended investors vote against the measure. A Jack in the Box representative did not immediately comment.

In another case, activist Boston Trust Walden agreed to withdraw a shareholder resolution filed for the spring meeting of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

In return, the Wall Street bank agreed to provide more details in a report this fall including about its lobbying activities and trade association memberships, according to a securities filing.

A JPMorgan spokesperson declined further comment.

(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Karishma Singh)

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