Alphabet, Inc. (GOOGL):
Once again, Alphabet, the parent company of Google (GOOGL), has been under scrutiny for privacy and censorship with regards to their operations in China. HII co-filed with lead-filer Azzad Asset Management, a proposal pertaining to a censored search tool, code-named “Dragonfly”, developed for the Chinese market. The proposal asks that GOOGL publish a Human Rights Impact Assessment on the actual and potential impacts and risks involved in a censored search tool in China. As Human and Civil Rights, privacy and free-speech advocates, HII found this resolution to be very compelling and wanted to support the efforts of Azzad Asset Management.
Amazon, Inc. (AMZN):
Amazon has been in the news a lot, lately, and one of the reasons behind their increased publicity is the controversy regarding their facial recognition technology, “Rekognition”. Along with a number of other colleagues and allies including Open MIC and ACLU, HII addressed the potential threats to privacy, human and civil rights through shareholder resolutions asking for enhanced fiduciary duty, as well as a ban on marketing and sales of this technology to governments and law enforcement agencies. We have had the opportunity to have a conversation with the AMZN legal team, and although they have issued a No-Action request, we are steadfast in our position on AMZN facial recognition technology and are responding to the challenge.
Bank of America (BAC):
One more resolution with a bank regarding Human and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights – the theme of 2018 that has carried over to 2019. Again, another company that refuses to accept enhanced responsibility, accountability and due diligence regarding these matters. Bank of America has challenged our request for strengthening their Human and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights policies, and after careful consideration, we have decided to withdraw our resolution based on an agreement with BAC to continue engaging in dialogue about the aforementioned policies.
Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank) (BNS):
Scotiabank received a re-drafted version of our 2018 proposal, where we continue to demand a more comprehensive and substantial policy on Human and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. We have been pursuing these issues with a number of other companies, mainly financial institutions for a few years, now, but none more doggedly than Scotiabank. We have been urging the corporate board to include language in their governance documents to secure and uphold the rights, specifically Human and Indigenous Peoples Rights, surrounding their financial involvement in the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Our dialogue has led to some additional language in their human rights policy, but nothing that satisfies our initial request for changes and additions to their governing documents, such as Articles of Incorporation or By-laws. We have recently declined their request to withdraw our proposal after further fruitless discussion. Recently, we have learned that shareholders will, once again, have the opportunity to vote on our resolution at the 2019 annual meeting of shareholders. This proposal continues to focus on the board of directors in an effort to convince them as fiduciaries, to take responsibility for the harm they have inflicted by lending bank funds to support major pipeline projects negatively impacting indigenous peoples and communities.
*Scotiabank’s shareholder meeting is scheduled for April 9, 2019.
We have re-filed an updated version of our 2018 Citigroup resolution for 2019, on Human and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, much like our other proposals stemming from numerous corporations’ financial support and involvement in the construction of the DAPL. We strongly urge Citi to “put their money where their mouth is” and make the necessary changes to the governance documents ensuring the protection of Human and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. Our proposal has (of course) been challenged, and after a conversation in early January, HII agreed to withdraw the resolution on the terms that C would continue dialogue with us on the Human and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.
Coca-Cola Company (KO):
A new idea for an approach to address the health concerns and issues that have surrounded KO for decades is HII’s resolution crafted to request that the company issue an independent report on Sugar and Public Health. This is to be conducted by independent scientists and health experts and other professionals in related fields to obtain information and input on KO’s sugar products marketed to consumers, especially KO’s preferred demographic to target – the youth. KO has not requested a conversation regarding the proposal, but their legal team has already challenged our resolution. We responded to that challenge, they responded, and we came back again with another response. After our final rebuttal, the KO legal team stated that they had no further response. We recently received the SEC ruling that stated they will not allow Coca-Cola to omit the proposal from their 2019 Proxy Material and Shareholder Ballot! We look forward to the opportunity for shareholders to vote on the matter at the meeting.
*Coca-Cola’s shareholder meeting is scheduled for April 24, 2019.
Facebook, Inc. (FB):
HII co-filed an updated version of the 2018 proposal on Content Governance at Facebook which is spearheaded by the lead-filer, Arjuna Capital. The resolution calls for the company to publish a report evaluating its strategies and policies on content governance and the extent to which they address human rights abuses, threats to democracy and freedom of expression. We received notice that our co-filed proposal will once again be in the FB proxy material and on the shareholder ballot for 2019. The date of the Facebook annual meeting of shareholders has yet to be determined.
Goldman Sachs (GS):
Once again, we are addressing the issue of Human and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights at a bank (Goldman Sachs). We have rewritten our 2018 proposal in hopes for a better shot at getting something on the shareholder ballot at GS. They, unsurprisingly, challenged our proposal, and we made the decision to withdraw the proposal in exchange for continued dialogue on the issues raised in the HII shareholder resolution.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM):
For 2019, HII co-filed a proposal with lead-filer Walden Asset Management on disclosure regarding their lobbying activities. Shareholder proposals at banks and other companies regarding lobbying disclosure continue to grow in number. After lengthy dialogue, Walden decided to withdraw the resolution on the grounds that JPM agreed to ongoing dialogue around disclosure of the company’s lobbying activities.
Following our approach at TJX, we introduced an additional resolution on animal welfare at Kohl’s for 2019. We used a similar approach with the TJX proposal, and asked that KSS adopt a vendor policy regarding oversight on animal welfare, stating the incongruencies between company values and company operations. Along with TJX, Kohl’s does not have any policy on animal welfare. After not hearing any response from KSS for months, we reached out to them to confirm the correct department had, in fact, received and reviewed our proposal, and were delighted to discover that they intend to include our proposal in the 2019 Proxy Material and Shareholder Ballot at Kohl’s, giving us an opportunity to address the ever-growing importance of incorporating oversight on Animal Welfare into company policies and practices!
*Kohl’s shareholder meeting is scheduled for May 15, 2019.
Once again, HII has introduced a health and safety-based resolution at McDonald’s for 2019, requesting the creation of a special Board Committee on Food Integrity. The impetus for this proposal comes from the recent breaches of safety and security in their food service, including but not limited to the rising global epidemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. MCD has challenged the proposal but failed to initiate any dialogue with us. We swiftly responded to that challenge, but recently received the ruling from the SEC citing “ordinary business” as grounds that allows MCD to omit the proposal from its proxy material and shareholder ballot.
PayPal, Inc. (PYPL):
HII re-filed our 2018 proposal at PayPal, with some updated information, regarding their human rights and additional policy statements relating to human rights. As mentioned in our 2018 advocacy review, we requested that PayPal modify their governance documents to ensure due diligence on Human and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. No word [yet] from PayPal regarding discussion of the proposal or of a challenge by the company to omit the proposal from its proxy materials.
In an attempt to generate a moral and philosophical discussion, HII filed a resolution requesting an amendment to PepsiCo’s Articles of Incorporation, changing the language that states the company has “perpetual existence”. After dialogue with the company and their explanation of the legal reasoning behind the language in the PEP Articles of Incorporation based on North Carolina statutes and policy, HII agreed to withdraw the proposal and will work with PEP’s legal team to convince the board to make a change in “perpetual existence” through board action.
TJX Companies, Inc. (TJX):
For the 2nd year in a row, HII introduced a resolution at TJX Companies, Inc. regarding animal welfare. This resolution took a more targeted approach, asking the company to amend their Vendor Code of Conduct to include board oversight on animal welfare throughout the supply chain, on the grounds that there is a clear lack of congruency between stated company “values” and company operations. HII had a conversation with the corporate attorneys at TJX in January and another in February, and the outcome has been that TJX has remained fixed in their position to take NO action to improve their policies and practices regarding animal welfare. We are currently in the process of responding to this challenge and eventually hope to persuade the company to take further steps to ensure on the ethical and humane treatment of animals regarding the sourcing of animal products throughout their supply chain.
HII filed a proposal at Verizon (the very first proposal filed for 2019) regarding the company’s major blunder regarding the “throttling” of services for first responders and the fire department during the peak of fire season and major fires occurring in 2018. As many of you are aware, HII was personally affected by the fires in late 2017, so addressing this life-threatening incident struck us as critically important. The resolution was challenged and HII, after learning that the appropriate VZ board committee found that that the company made a serious, possibly life-threatening mistake in throttling its internet service to firefighters, and agreed to act as a responsible fiduciaries by making policy changes to make sure it does not happen again. HII decided to withdraw the resolution and continue to monitor VZ activities, especially relating to first responders.
Wells Fargo Company (WFC):
As more details continue to surface regarding Wells Fargo’s monumental failures as a financial institution, we persevere in our attempts to demand increased accountability from the banking giant. This resolution requests the Board of Directors to commission an independent study and additions to governance documents regarding fiduciary duty and board oversight. They have challenged our resolution. WFC continuing harmful conduct has led to the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee to call for the firing of the bank CEO and a break-up of the bank. The bank continues to ignore shareholders’ concerns and we have responded to their challenge. The Trump-dominated SEC ruled against us again, citing “ordinary business”, continuing to protect the financial institution, probably allowing it again, to harm its own customers and shareholders.
Stay tuned, everyone!!