In case you missed it, there was a rather provocative article in a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal entitled “How to Give Shareholders a Say in Corporate Social Responsibility” (subscription required). It was written by a professor and an executive fellow at London Business School and suggests that “if companies are going to pursue goals beyond profits, investors should be allowed to weigh in.” Specifically, it proposes “to give investors a ‘say on purpose’ vote, similar to the two-part ‘say on pay’ votes that investors have in Europe.” The article goes on:
“Here is how it would work. A company issues a statement… stating its purpose beyond profits…. [I]t would clarify the… trade-offs the company might make between investors and stakeholders (say, it will sacrifice profits to reduce carbon emissions) or between different stakeholders (it will decarbonize even though doing so will lead to layoffs). Every three years, investors would have a ‘policy vote’ on this statement, to convey whether they buy into it and the trade-offs it implies. An investor would vote against it if he or she disagrees with the priorities, or if it is so vague it gives little guidance on what the company stands for.”
Now I grant you that say on pay votes have generally benefited both companies and investors by encouraging and facilitating engagement between the two. I also grant you that among the topics investors and companies might discuss is how companies should address their “purpose.” But voting on it? I beg to differ. Continue Reading Say on What???