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Shareholders Push These Companies on Human Rights, Worker-Friendly Policies, and Biodiversity

CVS, Home Depot, and Ryder are in the spotlight during proxy-voting season.

Illustration depicting three hands casting ballots into a central ballot box.
Securities In This Article
The Hershey Co
SkyWest Inc
The Home Depot Inc
The Travelers Companies Inc
Ryder System Inc

Are there human rights risks in insurance underwriting? So says a Travelers shareholder, which recommends the insurance company assess how it evaluates human rights risks and impacts as it does business.

For example, according to the proposal, Travelers TRV currently faces “public scrutiny over the potential risk associated” with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Gwich’in Steering Committee asked Travelers to pledge to stop insuring energy projects in the refuge in order to protect its communities, culture, and way of life. Indeed, 17 other insurers have committed not to insure oil and gas projects in the refuge. United Nations principles expect companies to conduct human rights due diligence and recognize the right of Indigenous people to self-determination, according to the proposal.

Read the proposal and Travelers’ response here. The Travelers annual meeting is on May 16, 2024.

These risks may be “rare” for Travelers, but “this does not exempt the company from assessing and reporting on its human rights due diligence processes” overall, writes Morningstar Sustainalytics analyst Ignacio Garcia Giner.

Trillium ESG Global Equity PORTX, which filed the proposal, previously asked Travelers how it assessed recommendations for improving the impacts of its policies on communities of color, according to Giner. The 2023 proposal received 35% support, and the 2022 proposal received 47% support.

Analysts believe voting support above 25% catches the board’s attention.

Seeking Worker-Friendly Policies at CVS and Home Depot

CVS Health CVS shareholders are nudging the drug retailer to report on whether it interferes when employees exercise their right to unionize. The proposal was made by New York State’s comptroller, acting as a trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, and asks CVS to report on its adherence to its commitment to workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining. CVS holds its annual meeting on May 16.

Around 5% of CVS’ workforce is unionized. Writes Giner: “Workers’ rights, and specifically freedom of association and collective bargaining, are a hot topic this season.” In 2023, such proposals received an average of 42% support from independent shareholders, says Giner. Read the proposal and CVS’ reaction here.

Meanwhile, Boeing BA shareholders will vote on whether the aerospace giant should report annually on pay gaps across race and gender and whether such gaps pose reputational, competitive, and other risks to the company. Reporting on pay equity assesses the dollar amount earned by women for every dollar earned by men across similar roles, or the dollar amount earned by minorities versus nonminorities across similar roles. The proposal was made by shareholder advocate James McRitchie of

Boeing holds its annual meeting on May 17. Writes Giner: “The company does not see value in providing an unadjusted pay-gap analysis. We believe assessing and publicly disclosing both median and adjusted gender pay-gap analyses to be the starting point to ensure pay parity. We also believe the requested reporting would strengthen the company’s DEI strategy and help assist with its near-term representation and pay parity commitments.” Read the proposal and Boeing’s response here.

Seeking a Biodiverse World at Home Depot

Should Home Depot HD report on the impact of biodiversity across its suppliers, business operations, and customers? That’s the thrust of a proposal made by Domini Impact Equity DSEFX that is up for a vote on May 16. Read the proposal and Home Depot’s response here.

To be clear, Home Depot does provide comprehensive disclosures on its environmental, social, and governance practices, particularly around sustainable forestry, writes Jekaterina Spiridonova of Morningstar Sustainalytics. Still, Spiridonova explains, investors need to understand “the risks to the business associated with biodiversity loss in its full value chain, and how effective Home Depot’s efforts are in mitigating its impact on nature. For investors, biodiversity and natural capital risks extend beyond their investments in individual companies. Biodiversity loss and climate change pose significant risks across portfolios.” Indeed, internationally recognized frameworks now exist to guide biodiversity reporting, Spiridonova notes.

What Else Happened in Proxy-Voting Season?

  • At Ryder System R, 40.4% of shareholders voted for the leasing and logistics firm to report on the impact of its climate-change strategy on relevant stakeholders, including employees, workers in its supply chain, and the communities in which it operates. Read the proposal, by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Fund, here. “Investors now recognize that, for ambitious emissions reduction and business transformation plans to succeed, companies need to have a plan to transform their workforce through reskilling, retraining, and fresh thinking about talent acquisition and community relations,” writes Andrew Spurr of Morningstar Sustainalytics. “Failing to develop a rigorous human capital component into its transition plan could put Ryder’s emissions reduction strategy at risk.” The 40% vote “indicates that investors see the company’s current disclosures as insufficient,” Spurr adds.
  • At Kinder Morgan KMI, 31.3% of investors voted for the midstream energy company to set an emissions reduction target covering emissions from its operations. That represents 37.4% of independent shareholders, according to Morningstar Sustainalytics. Kinder Morgan “does not have a defendable plan for transitioning its operations to a low-carbon economy,” writes Spiridonova.
  • At Papa John’s International PZZA, 30.4% of shareholders called for the fast-food company to disclose what percentage of group-housed pork it uses domestically and set targets for eliminating or reducing gestation crates in its pork supply.
  • At SkyWest SKYW, 25.7% of shareholders voted for the airline to adopt a noninterference policy upholding workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining in its operations.
  • At Hershey HSY, 5.5% of investors called for the company to describe opportunities around supporting a circular economy for packaging. This represented 35.2% of independent shareholders. According to the 2021 Corporate Plastic Pollution Scorecard published by As You Sow, which made the proposal, Hershey was one of the worst-performing companies.

The author or authors do not own shares in any securities mentioned in this article. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.

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About the Author

Leslie P. Norton

Editorial Director
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Leslie Norton is editorial director for sustainability at Morningstar.

Norton joined Morningstar in 2021 after a long career at Barron's Magazine and, where she managed the magazine's well-known Q&A feature and launched its sustainable investing coverage. Before that, she was Barron's Asia editor and mutual funds editor. While at Barron's, she won a SABEW "Best in Business" award for a series of stories investigating fraudulent Chinese equities, which protected the savings of investors and pensioners by warning about deceptive stocks before they crashed.

She holds a bachelor's degree from Yale College, where she majored in English, and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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