ShareAction

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ShareAction
FairPensionsLogo.good.jpg
Founded 2005
Founder Alex Van Der Valden
Type Charity
Focus Environmentalism, social responsibility, corporate governance, human rights, pension funds, socially responsible investing
Location
Method Lobbying, research, education, shareholder activism
Key people

Catherine Howarth, Chief Executive

Louise Rouse, Director of Engagement
Website www.shareaction.org

ShareAction, formerly known as FairPensions, is a registered charity that promotes responsible investment by pension schemes and fund managers.[1][2][3] It is based in London, United Kingdom.

ShareAction's aim is to improve corporate behaviour regarding environmental, social and governance issues.[4][5] The advocacy group focuses on encouraging pension funds to implement responsible investment strategies.[6][7] The charity engages with corporations through shareholder action.[8][9] Its work is driven by the fact that people indirectly have shares in companies through their participation in pension schemes and other financial products.[10][11]

ShareAction runs campaigns and publishes research. It is supported by a number of member organisations, such as Greenpeace, ActionAid, Amnesty International UK, UNISON, Access and Christian Aid.

ShareAction was shortlisted in the 'Animals and the Environment' category in the Charity Awards 2010 for its campaign work about the tar sands in Canada.[12] In 2011, ShareAction's Chief Executive Catherine Howarth was named a "Rising Star of Corporate Governance" by Yale University's Millstein Centre.[13][14] In February 2012, ShareAction was named one of "Britain's 50 new radicals" by The Observer and Nesta. The 'new radicals' are people or organisations who are "changing Britain for the better" and "applying fresh approaches".[15][16] It received 'Highly Commended' in the "Advice, Support and Advocacy" category in the Charity Awards 2012 for its work lobbying FTSE 100 companies to pay their workers the Living Wage.[17]

ShareAction is the operating name of Fairshare Educational Foundation. The charity sprung from student organisation People & Planet's "Ethics for USS" campaign[18] which led to The University Superannuation Scheme being the first pension fund to adopt a socially responsible investment policy in the 1990s.[19]

Catherine Howarth[20][21][22] is the current CEO of ShareAction.

Campaigns[edit]

Have your Say on High Pay[edit]

MPs support the campaign

At the end of April 2012 ShareAction launched its 'Your Say on Pay' campaign.[23] The campaign aimed to address the issue of 'spiralling' executive rewards at listed companies and was backed by the High Pay Centre and former Greggs Managing Director Mike Darrington.[24] During the first week of the campaign Aviva suffered a majority vote against its remuneration proposals; only the fourth time this had happened at a FTSE 100 company.[25] The campaign gave members of the public a chance to email their pension funds or ISA providers asking them to vote against excessive remuneration packages.[26] In its first couple of weeks alone the campaign garnered widespread national media interest, including articles or appearances by the team in The Daily Telegraph[27] The Daily Mail[28] BBC[29] and Sky News.[30]

The campaign uses multiple methods: an online action tool for ordinary savers with pension funds or stocks and shares ISAs to email their providers and ask them to use their votes at company AGMs to take a robust stance on excessive executive pay,[31][32] attendance of company AGMs to ask questions directly to the board where bad practice on remuneration has been found[33] and engagement with investors on excessive pay issues.[34]

The 'Your Say on Pay Campaign' had a parliamentary launch on 15 May 2012 at The House of Commons. An Early Day Motion was signed by MPs from across the political spectrum.[35]

At the end of 2012 ShareAction published 'The Missing Link: Lessons from the Shareholder Spring'. This report looked at investors' voting at controversial company AGMs in 2012.[36][37]

Living wage[edit]

In May 2011, ShareAction launched the JustPay! campaign[38] to persuade the FTSE 100 companies[39] to implement Living wage standards.[40][41] The campaign was backed by UK and US investors that hold £13 billion assets under management[42][43][44] and was launched at the rally (2 May 2011) [45][46] for the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Living wage campaign.

A letter signed by the investor coalition was sent to the top 100 UK companies, asking them to pay Living Wages.[47] ShareAction mobilised members of the public to participate at the AGM of companies such as Barclays, Lloyd's, Centrica and Standard Life to ask them questions about their Living wage policy and to push towards its implementation.[48][49][50][51] Standard Life committed to start discussions with its contractors to allow the company to become a living wage employer across all UK operations.[52]

The JustPay! campaign gained cross party support from MPs who signed an Early Day Motion to call the FTSE 100 to pay living wages in the UK.[53][54][55]

Environment[edit]

Tar Sands – Counting the Cost

In 2010, ShareAction launched a campaign to challenge the development of tar sands deposits by oil companies in Canada.[56][57] The tar sands project has been characterised by environmentalists as "the biggest environmental crime in history".[58][59] ShareAction coordinated two shareholder resolutions at Shell's[60][61] and BP's[62][63] annual general meetings, asking the companies to disclose more information about their involvement in the tar sands project. Both firms called on their shareholders to vote against the resolution.[64][65] At the BP AGM, on 15 April 2010, 14% of shareholders refused to back the management's recommendation,[66][67][68] while at Shell's AGM, on 18 May 2010, 11% of investors refused to follow management.[69][70] The campaign gained major support from politicians,[71][72] unions[73][74] and members of the public, including celebrities such as actor and comedian Alistair McGowan and Thom Yorke of the band Radiohead.[75] It was considered a success in stimulating shareholder engagement.[76][77][78]

"Is your pension in Deepwater?"

The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon[79] on 20 April 2010 raised new concerns about BP's risk management practices.[80][81] ShareAction launched a campaign calling for greater reporting by pension funds of their management of environmental and safety risks at companies in which they are shareholders.[82][83][84] ShareAction said that the Gulf of Mexico oil leak could affect UK pension funds,[85][86][87] arguing that that the environmental risks also have financial consequences.[88] The charity urged investors to take measures to ensure that ESG issues are monitored in order to avoid similar crisis management problems in the future.[89][90][91][92][93] It also put pressure on the Government to tighten pension funds regulations on environmental and social risk.[94][95][96] The campaign raised awareness about the need for investors to pay attention to ESG risks.[97][98][99][100]

"Got oil?"

A few months later, in September 2010, ShareAction joined Greenpeace to launch a new campaign to raise awareness about the "increasingly risky business model" of the oil industry.[101][102] The "Got Oil?" campaign[103][104] encouraged pension funds and fund managers to challenge oil companies about how they are dealing with climate change risks.[105]

North Sea oil spill

ShareAction saw a similar crisis management failure in the following year's oil leak at North Sea from Shell's platform[106][107] and said that investors should be concerned about the “lack of transparency” after the spill.[108][109]

Telecommunications and human rights[edit]

In July 2011, ShareAction supported the advocacy group Access in questioning the role of telecommunications companies when it comes to human rights issues. The initiative was born out of Vodafone's decision in January to obey Mubarak's government order to shut down its mobile and internet networks in Egypt.[110][111] In Vodafone's AGM (26 July 2011) Access asked the company to take steps to prevent the repetition of such acts.[112][113][114] Access published an action plan for telecommunications companies to ensure the protection of fundamental human rights issues.[115]

Health and human rights[edit]

Patents vs Patients"

In 2006, the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis launched a court case against India, challenging the country's patent law to develop generic drugs.[116] NGOs claimed that this could prevent some of the world's poorest people from receiving vital medicines.[117][118] ShareAction joined Oxfam in a campaign to block Novartis legal action; with ShareAction pointing out the risk for reputational damage for the company should the case proceed. The two charities mobilised members of pension funds worth £1.7trn, asking them to put pressure on Novartis by using their shareholder power.[119][120][121] On 6 August 2007, Novartis dropped its appeal.[122][123]

Unearth Justice

In 2008, ShareAction launched a joint campaign with CAFOD in order to raise concern about the impact of mining companies on human rights in the developing world.[124][125] ShareAction and CAFOD sent briefings to 400 large UK pension funds and asset managers asking them to put pressure on mining companies about the ethical and investment risk of their policies.[126][127]

Research and publications[edit]

Investors surveys[edit]

ShareAction regularly publishes investor rankings. In December 2010, ShareAction published a survey of fund managers' performance on engagement and transparency in the UK.[128][129] "Stewardship in the Spotlight" was the first study of its kind since the launch of the Financial Reporting Council's Stewardship Code.[130][131] The report ranked the 29 largest asset managers who invest on behalf of UK pension funds and retail clients.[132][133][134] According to the survey, 41% of the asset managers make no information publicly available on engagement activities, while 17% do not disclose voting data.[135][136][137]

In April 2012, ShareAction published its report "The Stewardship Lottery: The Governance Gap in Contract-Based Pensions"[138] which assessed the responsible investment practices of the ten largest contract-based pension providers in the UK. The report found that only one of the providers analysed had signed up to the UK Stewardship Code.[139][140]

In November 2012 ShareAction published 'The Missing Link: Lessons from the 'Shareholder Sping'. The report looked at the behaviour of institutional investors during the so-called 'Shareholder Spring' of 2012. The report found that 72% of investors were opposed to a binding vote on executive pay when the government first consulted them.[141] The report also looked at how investors voted at certain high profile company AGMs and exposed apparent inconsistencies in voting behaviour.[142]

In December 2012 ShareAction published its report 'Ethically Engaged: A survey of UK ethical funds'.[143] The report surveyed the majority of ethical fund providers and ranked them according to their "responsibility rating". The report found many ethical funds to be using 'outdated'[144] screening methods which do not reflect customers' views. The report also found that 45% of ethical funds do not disclose their full holdings and that many funds fail to engage on ethical issues with companies in which they invest.[145]

Policy and public affairs[edit]

ShareAction's policy work aims to remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to the encouragement of responsible investment practices.[146] Their March 2012 publication "The Enlightened Shareholder"[147] looked at current interpretations of fiduciary duty, positing that they were unnecessarily restricted to the "duty to maximise returns".[148][149]

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