The 2008 Proxy Voting Preview

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Photo:NacRonin47, Creative Commons, Flickr

There are many different types of socially conscious investing, but a particularly effective method is proxy voting, where shareholders instigate change from within. Individual investors have the power to influence the way a company or a fund does business. And foundations, especially, can leverage their influence to ensure that the companies and funds they invest in work toward goals that are in line with guiding principles. All investors can become better informed as to what proposals are out there when you read the Proxy Season Preview 2008, the fourth annual effort from As You Sow and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

The aim of this report is to explain the proposals being considered at shareholder meetings this spring. At these meetings, shareholders and proxies (votes made by those who are not physically present) determine the course of a company. While governance issues are voted on in such meetings, the Preview is mainly concerned about social responsibility issues. The Preview contains a list of all of the proposals put forward regarding socially conscious behavior this spring so that foundations and social responsible investors can become educated with regard to how they can use their proxy votes to bring companies and funds more in line with their own values and principles.

Also included in the Preview is an overview of proxy voting and how investors can best leverage their votes to accomplish the greatest good. Additionally, this report takes a look at the more pressing proposals, including those that are concerned with the environment, human rights, executive compensation, political donations and other matters. The report also educates investors about "Trojan Horse" proposals, which are cleverly disguised to look at progressive proposals, but are really designed to help maintain the status quo or block outright efforts to take the company or fund in a socially conscious direction.

Education is an important part of socially conscious investing and the Proxy Season Preview 2008 (PDF Format) provides a comprehensive guide for those of us who wish to wield our influence as shareholders.