Corporate Accountability in Action: CERES Shows the Way - CSR Minute for May 8, 2013

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Corporate Accountability in Action: CERES Shows the Way - CSR Minute for May 8, 2013

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Corporate Accountability in Action: CERES Shows the Way- the latest #CSR Minute from @3BLMedia @ceresnews

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 1:15pm


CONTENT: Press Release

Flying back from last week’s CERES conference in San Francisco, I was reading the Wall Street Journal when I did a double take at the front-page article headlined, “Investors Push Out Powerful Oil Boss.” The article described how the longtime Executive Chairman of Occidental Petroleum had been forced out of office at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting. The removal was due to anger at his backroom maneuvering to unseat the current CEO, who had replaced the chairman two years ago as CEO—due to anger at the then-CEO’s colossal compensation: $1.1 billion dollars from 1994 to 2012. The article went on to describe the deposed chairman as “the latest ‘victim’ in a rising tide of shareholder activism,” and listed the investor-driven departures of the founder and chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, the CEO of WellPoint, and of HP’s board chairman.

This subject of shareholder pressure on executives, boards, and companies to be accountable seems particularly timely following the CERES conference. For several years, one of that organization’s principal initiatives has been to support shareholder resolutions at the annual meetings of publicly traded companies. But CERES’s idea is not to push out individual executives, but to hold companies accountable for their sustainability practices in operations and supply chain practices. That’s in line with CERES’ mission: “to mobilize business leadership for a sustainable world.” In the 2012 proxy season 110 shareholder resolutions were filed with companies to urge action on climate change, limit fracking, address water scarcity, and deal with other related sustainability risks and opportunities. Forty-four proposals resulted in positive commitments.

At this year’s CERES conference, the organization announced that it is pioneering yet another path to influence business practices by encouraging corporate leadership, not indulging in the politics of ouster by outrage. Forty companies have signed on to the Climate Declaration, a statement from CERES and its Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy coalition, BICEP, that urges federal policymakers to take action on climate change. Signatories include GM, Unilever, IKEA, Eileen Fisher, Annie’s, Adidas, Levi Strauss, and Symantec, among others. Collectively, these 40 leading businesses provide over 500,000 jobs and generate combined annual revenue of $611 billion. The CERES and BICEP declaration initiative shows how a positive approach can yield results: that’s real corporate accountability in action.

I’m John Howell for 3BL Media.

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