Investors tell North American boards to start valuing decent work

By March 12, 2019Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Investors tell North American boards to start valuing decent work

Shareholder association files proposals for upcoming AGMs

Toronto, ON, March 12, 2019 – The Shareholder Association for Research & Education (SHARE) is stepping up its efforts to put decent work on the agenda of North American companies, filing multiple shareholder proposals calling specifically for clearer standards for decent work, board oversight of workplace risks, due diligence on worker rights down the supply chain, and enhanced measurement and disclosure of workplace practices.

Over the past year, SHARE has worked with its institutional investor clients to engage with more than 20 companies on decent work and, over the past few months, has filed decent work-related resolutions at several of these companies, including the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Restaurant Brands International (RBI, the parent company of Tim Horton’s), and Amazon Inc. SHARE expects to file additional decent work-related proposals at a number of other companies in the coming weeks.

“Although institutional investors are increasingly aware that a company’s workforce is a fundamental asset and key to its long-term success, progress on valuing decent work by corporate boards and chief executives has been slow in Canada and the U.S.,” said Shannon Rohan, Director of Responsible Investment Leadership at SHARE.

“Employee development, health and safety, and labour standards influence a company’s performance for better or for worse,” she said. “Companies that take aggressive cost-cutting approaches to their workforce can experience both reputational and operational risks with potential financial consequences.”

“We have filed shareholder proposals asking companies to take decent work into account in business decisions,” said Rohan. “We’ve enhanced our guidance when voting shares on behalf of our clients to vote against directors if the board has not carried out its responsibilities in a way that protects the value of the company including as a result of poor employee relations.”

“Quite frankly, the slow progress on valuing decent work is raising red flags for our clients,” she said. “In the context of growing income inequality, social unrest and political instability, our investor clients are increasing their efforts to put decent work front and centre in their engagement with companies.”

 

BACKGROUND

For further information, SHARE is inviting institutional investors to participate in a webinar on Wednesday, April 10th at 9am PST / noon EST. If you are interested in joining this webinar, go to https://share.ca/events/. Below is a brief summary of some of the resolutions filed to date.

Enhanced Workforce Disclosure – Royal Bank of Canada

On behalf of the Atkinson Foundation, SHARE filed a resolution at RBC asking the bank to enhance its annual disclosure to include comprehensive workforce metrics such as the number of temporary and contract workers. It also sought greater transparency on RBC’s overall approach to human capital management in the context of emerging workforce-related risks and concerns raised by RBC’s employees. This proposal was withdrawn based on RBC’s commitment to provide additional disclosure in its fiscal 2019 reporting as requested.

Enhanced Decent Work Operational Standards and Oversight – Restaurant Brands International

The proposal at RBI asks the company for a report on actions the company is taking to ensure decent work practices are upheld in the company’s franchisee operations including its minimum requirements and standards related to workforce practices such as wages and benefits, working hours and breaks, health and safety, shift scheduling and training for corporate offices, branded operations and franchisees. Within a franchise operating model, the success and reputation of RBI’s business depends on a highly-engaged customer-facing workforce and strong franchisor-franchisee relationships. In the context of the widely publicized response by some Canadian Tim Horton’s franchisees to Ontario’s minimum wage and other recent workforce challenges suggests that a lack of minimum standards may be creating reputational problems for the Tim Horton’s brand with potential negative impacts for sales.

Enhanced Human Capital Governance Capacity – Amazon Inc.

SHARE supported the Sisters of Mercy in filing a resolution asking Amazon to add human capital management to the types of business and professional experience included in the qualifications and skills of director candidates considered by the nominating and corporate governance committee. Human capital-related risks are increasingly being recognized as an important subject of boards’ risk oversight. However, despite being the second largest private employer in the U.S. and facing numerous reports of poor workplace practices, Amazon’s 2018 proxy statement did not disclose human capital management experience or skills for any of the company’s directors.