"There is no such thing to my mind . . . as an innocent stockholder. He may be innocent in fact, but socially he cannot be held innocent. He accepts the benefits of the system. It is his business and his obligation to see that those who represent him carry out a policy which is consistent with the public welfare."
— Louis Brandeis
There are several forms of shareholder engagement that endowments can undertake to address material investment risks, improve corporate sustainability performance and support policies that move society towards sustainability. These include:
- proxy voting,
- engaging in dialogue with mutual funds or companies held in the portfolio,
- filing or co-filing shareholder resolutions, and
- signing on to public investor letters or statements.
For an overview of the value of proxy voting and additional forms of engagement for endowments and a discussion of the current issues an endowment may impact, watch IEN's webinar:
Proxy Voting and Shareholder Engagement for Endowments, February 2017
IEN Webinar Introduction to Proxy Voting, July 2016
Proxy voting can be a powerful tool for improving corporate performance on social and environmental sustainability issues to enhance long-term value. Increasingly, stakeholders are calling for endowments to be more active owners, and many argue that doing so is a responsibility of fiduciaries.
This webinar provides a basic overview of proxy voting, including:
A recap of the 2016 proxy season (what were the big issues and results?)
Mechanics of how to vote proxies (how do we do it?)
Effectiveness of proxy voting (what impact does it have on companies and society?)
Proxy voting by external managers (how can we have a say in proxy voting if we don’t own the shares directly?)
Endowment proxy voting policies, principles, and activities
Dialogue with Fund Managers
The Intentional Endowments Network's "Engaging Investment Managers on Proxy Voting & Other Forms of Shareholder Engagement" document outlines potential questions for investment managers on their proxy voting and other shareholder engagement activities around ESG. To signal your endowment’s commitment to sustainability, your institution can share a list of questions, such as the one provided below, with both managers and advisors. Sharing your questions and interest in writing at the beginning of the dialogue will allow your managers and advisors an opportunity to prepare for an informed conversation on engagement.
Click here to access the "Engaging Investment Managers on Proxy Voting & Other Forms of Shareholder Engagement" document.
This 2018 Asset Manager Climate Scorecard provides information on how fund managers voted on a number of climate- and governance-related resolutions.
Ceres tracks shareholder resolutions filed by their investor network participants on sustainability-related issues that companies are facing, focusing on climate change, energy, water scarcity, and sustainability reporting. On Ceres' website, you can sort resolutions by filer, company, issue and more, and get information about the resolution, including full resolution text, status, vote count and supporting memos: Ceres' Shareholder Resolutions Database.
PRI's Collaboration Platform: is a private platform for PRI signatories to collaborate and enhance their impact on a range of global engagement initiatives including invitations to sign joint letters to companies, opportunities to join investor-company engagements on specific ESG themes and requests for support for upcoming shareholder resolutions.