Board Committee on Sustainability Proposed For Starbucks and Google

November 12, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Posted in Shareholder Advocacy | Leave a comment

Napa, California-based Harrington Investments, Inc. (HII), has introduced binding bylaw amendments at Starbucks (SBUX) and Google (GOOG), empowering and encouraging the boards of directors to create a standing committee to set company policy on environmental sustainability.

In March of this year, HII was successful in reaching an agreement with Intel Corporation (INTC) to amend the company’s Charter of the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee to include “corporate responsibility and sustainability performance” into the committee’s overall policy responsibility.  Intel also provided HII with an outside legal opinion stating that under Delaware law, Intel directors have a fiduciary duty to address such issues.

In October, HII was successful in reaching a similar agreement with genetically modified seed producer Monsanto (MON).  Monsanto also agreed to amend the company’s committee charter to specifically delegate sustainability policy issues to the Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility Committee and provided HII with an internal legal opinion that under Delaware law, the company’s directors had a fiduciary duty to comply with charter sustainability requirements. Continue Reading Board Committee on Sustainability Proposed For Starbucks and Google…


Asleep at the Wheel: What BP, Goldman Sachs and Massey Have in Common

May 10, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Posted in Shareholder Advocacy | Leave a comment

By Dale Wannen

With an array of disasters occurring around the world as we speak, it is tempting to take a step back and think about how we have ended up in such a lovely state. Ah yes, the delight of disaster due to corporate greed. Robert Reich’s recent article “Bring Back Regulation” does a great job demonstrating how all of these problems are mainly due to the lack of regulation by big brother who was supposed to be keeping an eye on things. Well, it seems as if big brother was out on one too many smoke breaks recently.

BP’s dirty oil
Every 10 years we face a major oil spill of some kind. The current spill, courtesy of BP, could be the worst ever as thousands of barrels of oil continue to spill into the Gulf every day. The Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service was supposed to be the big brother in this case. Clearly it hasn’t done its job as there isn’t even a technology known that can stop oil from leaking at 5,000 feet below the surface (though in the last day we have learned quickly). Keep in mind this is the same federal service that takes in about $10 billion in royalties every year and is one of the government’s largest sources of revenue besides taxes.  With all of that said, BP will be slapped with a billion dollar bill on this one, but for a $160 billion dollar company, that’s hardly a drop in the bucket.

Continue Reading Asleep at the Wheel: What BP, Goldman Sachs and Massey Have in Common…

I’d Like a Little CDP With My GDP: Google Adds Carbon Data To Finance

April 22, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Posted in Shareholder Advocacy | Leave a comment

By Dale Wannen

Google Finance has spoken. Recently, the financial section of Google inserted a new dimension to its “key stats and ratios” section by adding the Carbon Disclosure Rating amongst other well known financial metrics, including profit margin and return on equity, on the main summary page. Why? Who? Where? What the?

This is actually rather groundbreaking in terms of trying to measure individual companies along with making a stock selection for your own portfolio. Google has taken the initiative to include this metric and for this it should be applauded.

However, let’s take this with a grain of salt. Keep in mind that not all companies have responded to the necessary CDP questionnaire so the pool of companies is limited. On top of this, as I look through the Industrials Sector I see the large military aircraft supplier Boeing with a comparatively high score of 87. I also see the 4th largest oil behemoth Chevron with an even better score of 88. We need to beg the question, “what is the methodology?”

There are mainly two criteria: 1) The level of action being taken by the company to manage its impacts on climate change and 2) simply reporting on emissions regardless of what their CO2 footprint is. If you would like to divulge in further detail here, is the link to the rating methodology.

By making the move to include the CDP component, Google is definitely differentiating itself. In a world where stakeholders are demanding change and transparency, this addition to the financial criteria of publicly traded companies is a step in the right direction.

Shareholder Activists Hit Starbucks on Recycling

March 25, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Posted in Shareholder Advocacy | 1 Comment

By Dale Wannen

As I stood and watched the line of 12 in front of me at Starbucks the other day, I daydreamed about the load of cups Starbucks must go through every day.  A little googling turned up the fact that  it’s actually 3 billion paper cups and 1 billion plastic cups a year.  To put that in tangible terms, that’s 8,219,178 paper cups and 2,739,726 plastic cups a day.  Wait, 10 million cups a day?

While I wait for those of you who spewed hot lattes onto your laptops to clean up after yourselves, please be assured certain groups are doing something about this.  Starbucks annual shareholder meeting just ended Wednesday in Seattle.  This meeting was entertainment infused:  Sheryl Crow sang some of her hits and informed the crowd that she “drinks Starbucks coffee every morning” (something tells me we will be hearing more Sheryl at our local Starbucks). But that’s not all. There was shareholder activism to witness.  As You Sow Foundation , a shareholder advocacy organization  put forth a proposal using shareholder advocate John Harrington’s shares [Full Disclosure: he’s my boss], asking the board of directors to adopt a comprehensive recycling strategy for beverage containers.  Although those baristas can stir up a mean mocha,  Starbucks as a whole has a poor record when addressing recycling issues.

Continue Reading Shareholder Activists Hit Starbucks on Recycling…

SEC Climate Change Guidelines Lead to New Shareholder Resolutions

March 5, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Posted in Shareholder Advocacy | Leave a comment

By Dale Wannen

If recent talk about climate change hasn’t already rattled every CEO’s corporate cage, then yesterday’s news regarding shareholder resolutions should do the trick.  It was announced during a phone-based news conference today that investors filed a record 95 climate change resolutions against companies ranging from coal mining to big box retailers.  That’s a 40 percent increase over last year.

This is mostly due to the SEC’s recent guidance talk on climate change disclosure.  As the SEC starts to keep a closer eye on these behemoth companies and their long-term impact on the environment, investors are clawing at an opportunity to voice themselves and have the SEC standing co-pilot.  And these investors have big money in the game.  Jack Ehnes, CEO of CalSTRS, which manages $131 billion (yes, billion)  in assets says,  “We want our companies to closely look at the impact climate change legislation and regulation have on them, to realistically assess those risks, and to consider the indirect consequences of climate change-driven regulation and business trends on their activities.  The SEC’s interpretive guidance outlines exactly the kind of action we have been asking our portfolio companies to take with regards to the issues raised by climate change.”

Continue Reading SEC Climate Change Guidelines Lead to New Shareholder Resolutions…

Shareholder Activism, Yes You Can

February 17, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Posted in Shareholder Advocacy | Leave a comment

By Dale Wannen,

Ever want to just yell, while reading about overpaid CEOs?  Ever wish that you could ask the board members at Monsanto if they eat genetically modified corn?  Ever want to just stare Larry Ellison in the eye and ask him how much his sailboat costs shareholders?  Well, you can. Shareholder activism is the broad term used for ways to advocate for change within a corporation.

To take that a step further, any stock owner who meets the criteria ($2,000 worth of stock held for a minimum of one year) is able to file something called a shareholder resolution. Shareholder resolutions are simply proposals put forward by the shareholders to raise public awareness of issues and hopefully change egregious corporate behaviors.  Granted, most proposals are pushed into the paper shredder by corporations and/or rejected by the SEC. However, if your resolution is placed on the proxy ballot, you will be given a period of time to discuss your proposed resolution and supporting statements at the annual shareholder meeting and, more importantly, voice your issue to millions of shareholders through the proxy. Still, the question remains “is it making a difference?”

Continue Reading Shareholder Activism, Yes You Can…

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