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‘Wrecking Ball’: Support For ‘Woke’ Shareholder Proposals Drops As GOP Fights Back

Shareholders this year have expressed far less support for resolutions pushing companies to take action on climate change and social issues compared to last year amid Republican opposition, Bloomberg reported Friday.

In general, shareholder support for resolutions related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues fell to just 22% through Thursday, down from a peak of 33% in 2021, Bloomberg reported, citing data from the Sustainable Investments Institute. Republican pushback to ESG investment has been a “wrecking ball” contributing to a “striking” decline in shareholder support for ESG issues, Heidi Welsh, Executive Director of Sustainable Investments Institute, told the outlet.

“It’s across the board that support has dropped,” she said. In addition to reduced shareholder support, the total number of ESG resolutions has also declined, from 283 at this time last year to 240.

Beyond GOP pressure — which saw red states pulling billions from and blacklisting financial institutions committed to ESG investing — shareholder resolutions have also gotten more aggressive, Rob Du Boff, senior ESG analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, told the outlet. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2021 eased rules limiting shareholders’ ability to make ESG-related proposals, prompting a significant increase in more extreme proposals.

“Looking at just the numbers, the support levels appear to be dwindling,”  Du Boff said. “But if you look at the substance of what major shareholders actually voted for this year versus three or four years ago, I don’t think very much has actually changed.”

Data from corporate consultancy firm Georgeson reflected similar results through mid-May, finding that shareholder support for environmental resolutions fell to just 25%, down from 43% through all last year, Reuters reported. Resolutions related to social issues saw even less support, falling to just 20% this year, continuing to fall from 26% in 2022 and 33% in 2021.

The broadly “dampening effect” on shareholder support for such resolutions typically indicates that shareholders found them to be too burdensome, Georgeson Strategist Kilian Moote told Reuters.

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