Google – Sustainability Reporting (2010)
Outcome: 5.47% (Note: 33.94 of non-executive, non-director shares)
Investors increasingly seek disclosure of companies’ social and environmental practices in the belief that they impact shareholder value. Many investors believe companies that are good employers, environmental stewards, and corporate citizens are more likely to be accepted in their communities and to prosper in the long-term.
Sustainability refers to development that meets present needs without impairing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It includes “encouraging long lasting social well being in communities where [companies] operate, interacting with different stakeholders (e.g. clients, suppliers, employees, government, local communities, and non-governmental organizations) and responding to their specific and evolving needs, thereby securing a long-term ‘license to operate,’ superior customer and employee loyalty, and ultimately superior financial returns.” (Dow Jones Sustainability Group)
Globally, approximately 1,500 companies produce reports on sustainability issues (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, www.corporateregister.com), including more than half of the global Fortune 500 (KPMG International Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting 2005).
Many large institutional investors have made sustainability reporting a key priority and regularly vote in favor of requests for sustainability reporting. According to a Risk Metrics 2008 ESG Background Report, the average level of support for sustainability reporting resolutions has been increasing each year, up to 28.1% in 2008.
American Electric Power has stated, “management and the Board have a fiduciary duty to carefully assess and disclose to shareholders appropriate information on the company’s environmental risk exposure.”
A June 2009 letter from the Investor Network for Climate Risk representing $1.4 trillion in assets called on the Securities and Exchange Commission to require companies to disclose material environmental and social risks using the Global Reporting Initiative as a framework.
A 2009 report from the Boston College Carroll School of Management entitled “The Value of Social Reporting” highlighted the important role sustainability reporting can play in both communication and performance management.
Global expectations regarding sustainability reporting are changing rapidly. The European Commission recommends corporate sustainability reporting, and listed companies in Australia, South Africa and France must now provide investors with information on their social and environmental performance.
Shareholders request the company issue a sustainability report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, by April 1, 2011.
We believe the report should include the company’s definition of sustainability, as well as a company-wide review of company policies and practices related to long-term social and environmental sustainability. We recommend that the company look to the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines (“The Guidelines”) in preparing the report. The Global Reporting Initiative (www.globalreporting.org) is an international organization with representatives from the business, environmental, human rights and labor communities. The Guidelines provide guidance on report content, including performance in six categories (direct economic impacts, environmental, labor practices and decent work conditions, human rights, society, and product responsibility). The Guidelines provide a flexible reporting system that permits the omission of content that is not relevant to company operations. Over 700 companies use or consult the Guidelines for sustainability reporting.