Feb 2, 2015 – Napa, CA –Monsanto shareholders adopted a shareholder proposal by John Harrington, CEO of Harrington Investments, Inc., (HII) a socially responsible investment advisory firm based in Napa, to request the board of directors to allow shareholders to nominate candidates to the board of directors.
The proposal garnered over 53% of the vote, which is an unusually large percentage for a proposal from a shareholder. The proposal addresses “proxy access” at Monsanto, which is a process allowing shareholders to directly nominate a limited number of candidates to the Board of Directors. Currently, the existing board members alone select a sole slate of candidates for the board.
“The success with proxy access is the first step in allowing stakeholders, as owners, to have input into the corporate board room,” said Harrington. “If there is any government authorized social institution that needs enlightenment, it is certainly Monsanto.”
Harrington’s proposal was supported by Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), the largest proxy voting advisory service in the country, and is among the first successful proposals in the country. Shareholders have unsuccessfully attempted to have the power to nominate directors for more than 70 years, and while it was mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, the conservative Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable have vigilantly fought against this form of corporate democracy.
Representing Harrington at the meeting was Zen Honeycutt, the founder of Moms Across America. Moms Across America, who partner with the Organic Consumers Association, is a national coalition of “Unstoppable Moms” whose motto is “Empowered Moms, Healthy Kids.” These Moms are a strong and growing force behind GMO labeling campaigns and daylighting some of the medical concerns with GMO produced foods—particularly the dangerous chemicals needed for GMO crop production.
During the meeting, Honeycutt engaged in a very lively and respectful dialogue with Monsanto’s President and CEO, Hugh Grant. (For an in-depth view of how a corporation like Monsanto “handles” presenters, see Honeycutt’s blog post about her experience.)
In addition to presenting Harrington’s proposal, Honeycutt presented a large list of studies asserting evidence linking Roundup’s key active ingredient, glyphosate, to a host of human health issues, and a stack of personal testimonials from people whose health has suffered because of exposure to glyphosate.
Because Harrington’s proposal was advisory, the yes vote does not mean Monsanto’s Board or management is required to implement it.
When asked if he intended to implement it, CEO Grant was less than committal.
“The ink is still wet on this vote,” Grant said. He said since Monsanto has their annual meeting earlier in the year than most companies, he intends to watch how other companies respond to similar proposals. “We will continue outreach,” he said, adding, it is likely “when we are back next year we will have modified our approach.”
“I am hopeful that corporate management and the Board of Directors will amend the corporate bylaws to finally allow shareholders to nominate a small minority of director candidates to the Board. It is the least the company can do to respond to shareholders, and Monsanto is known for doing the least for owners when it comes to good corporate governance,” Harrington concluded.
Harrington Investments, Inc. is a 33-year old Registered Investment Advisor, managing over $190 million in assets for individuals and institutions, requiring social and environmental, as well as financial return. The company manages assets utilizing a comprehensive social criteria, engages in shareholder advocacy, and implements a policy of impact investing in for-profit as well as non-profit enterprises.
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