Activism surrounding environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues has grown significantly during recent years. Proxy access will be on the ballot at nearly 100 AGMs this year following a virtually unprecedented uptick in 2015, when the share of S&P 500 firms with access provisions jumped from two percent to 20 percent. Proposals once supported by only a special class of investors are now top of mind for institutional investors and other mainstream shareholders. In fact, in 2015, shareholders submitted more than 1,030 proposals to approximately 540 companies, of which 45% related to environmental and social issues; nearly 43% were governance-related; and about 12% addressed compensation topics. Issuers face increasing pressure to engage with investors and explain their positions on such issues. Being proactive and transparent throughout the year may stem the tide of proxy season headaches.
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