ShareAction

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ShareAction
Founded 2005
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
Website shareaction.org

ShareAction is a registered charity that promotes Responsible Investment.

ShareAction aims to improve corporate behaviour on environmental, social and governance issues. The charity has launched numerous campaigns, building capacity among savers, charities, unions, faith groups and other civil society organisations to engage with investors to bring about change. ShareAction’s work recognises that the money individuals and organisations put into the investment system funds global corporations, who in turn have the power to change business practices that are harmful to people or the environment.

A key aim is to democratise the financial system so that ordinary savers have more influence over how their money is invested. ShareAction engages with investors, pension funds, asset managers, individuals, charities and policy makers to achieve its mission.

ShareAction has been highly commended three times in the Charity Awards, most recently in 2015 for its AGM Army project.[1]

ShareAction is based in London, United Kingdom. Catherine Howarth is the current Chief Executive.

History[edit]

In the 1990s a campaign called 'Ethics for USS' led by the student network People & Planet aimed to make the Universities Superannuation Scheme listen to members’ concerns about the scheme’s investments. As a result, USS became the first pension fund to formally adopt a socially responsible and sustainable investment policy.[2] This led to the establishment of a national organisation to champion Responsible Investment. FairPensions – the charity’s first operational name – was born.

Early campaigns included ‘Patents v Patients’ in 2007, a campaign to stop pharmaceutical company Novartis' legal challenge against India's patent law to develop generic drugs. ShareAction worked with Oxfam to mobilise savers and institutional investors to put pressure on the company, highlighting the reputational risk of pursuing the claim. In August 2007 Novartis dropped its appeal, ensuring a key supply of low-cost drugs to the developing world was protected.

In 2006 ShareAction published its first survey of pension schemes, examining the existence and transparency of investment policies on environmental, social and governance issues. The charity has since published many surveys ranking both pension funds and asset managers on such issues.

In 2010 ShareAction co-ordinated shareholder resolutions at BP and Shell, asking them to publish details of the risks associated with their controversial tar sands project in Canada. Over 6000 supporters emailed their pension funds asking them to support the resolutions; consequently, an unprecedented number of shareholders went against the companies’ recommendations to vote against the resolutions, sparking conversations between investors, companies and savers.[3] The campaign was a turning point in the use of ‘pension power’ to effect change.[4]

Campaigns[edit]

ShareAction uses the power of the investment system to campaign against company practices which are environmentally or socially damaging or which represent poor governance practice, and to promote Responsible Investment.

The charity engages with investors and companies to promote the value and business sense of investing responsibly, as well as encouraging individual supporters to take action. A key feature of ShareAction’s campaigns are online tools which allow savers to email their pension funds to ask them to use their power as investors to influence company behaviour.

Green Light[edit]

The Green Light campaign allows savers to unlock the power of their savings and investments to tackle climate change and its causes, and to mitigate the financial risks to investors associated with climate change. The campaign encourages savers to ask their pension provider how much they invest in fossil fuel companies; how their investments support greener energy; and how they use their current holdings in fossil fuel companies to engage with them on environmental issues and encourage more sustainable operations.

During 2014-15, as part of the Green Light campaign, ShareAction co-ordinated shareholder resolutions at BP and Shell asking each of the companies to disclose information on the risks climate change poses to their business models.[5] Major investors publicly supported these resolutions, and thousands of pension savers contacted their funds to express their support. The resolutions passed at both BP and Shell with an overwhelming majority.[6][7]

Living Wage[edit]

ShareAction works with savers and investors to embed Living Wage standards, as set out independently by the Living Wage Foundation, in the UK’s private sector, starting with the biggest companies in the FTSE 100. The charity brings together institutional investors, including pension funds, to call upon FTSE companies to adopt the Living Wage standard. The charity also helps savers to engage with major companies to support the adoption of the Living Wage. So far 24 of the FTSE 100 have become accredited Living Wage employers.

USS: Step Up[edit]

The USS: Step Up campaign aims to ensure that members’ views are taken into account in the decision-making process for investments made by the Universities Superannuation Scheme, the largest occupational pension scheme in the UK. The campaign aims to set a precedent by achieving a governance model that allows members’ views to be embedded in the investment strategy of a large pension fund.

Other recent and current campaign issues include high executive pay,[8] tax transparency,[9] digital privacy and factory farming.

Shareholder activism[edit]

ShareAction’s AGM Army trains individual supporters to use shareholder activism as a way to engage with major companies. Through the project, individuals attend the annual general meetings (AGMs) of publicly listed companies to ask questions about subjects they feel passionately about.[10] Individuals have raised issues concerning high pay, tax, corporate lobbying, digital rights, human trafficking, renewable energy and board diversity.

In 2014, the AGM Army asked 121 questions at AGMs, over 80% of which led to successful company engagement on the issues raised.

Policy & research[edit]

ShareAction engages with policy-makers and the investment industry to promote Responsible Investment and transparency to the savers whose money underpins the investment system. The aim is to encourage a policy framework that makes the investment system more democratic and accountable, and ensures all risks and opportunities, including those relating to environmental, social and governance factors are properly considered by institutional investors.

ShareAction regularly publishes research on issues relating to Responsible Investment. This includes reports which provide independent analysis and help shape public policy debate. In July 2015 ShareAction published a report outlining its vision for UK workplace pensions which called for less regulation and better member representation.[11]

The charity also undertakes industry surveys which examine and rank the Responsible Investment performance of the UK’s largest pension funds and fund managers. These surveys provide independent analysis and have become respected industry benchmarks.[12] ShareAction’s latest survey examined how frequently asset managers sided with company management advice on controversial decisions such as pay in 2014.[13]

Outreach[edit]

ShareAction works to equip ordinary savers with the skills and knowledge required to engage with their pension fund about their investments. The charity aims to democratise the financial system and remove the barriers to pension funds listening to their customers about their ethical concerns on investments. ShareAction's Pension Power programme helps savers who want to work with their pension funds to encourage sustainable investment.

Responsible Investment Networks[edit]

ShareAction hosts three networks for investors. These include the Charities Responsible Investment Network (CRIN) and the Operational Charities Responsible Investment Network (OCRIN), networks that support foundations and charities who wish to use their investments to help support their charitable aims and ambitions.[14] ShareAction provides support to members including training, research, resources and opportunities for engagement with companies and policy makers. ShareAction also hosts Capital Action, a network of investors who want to address London-specific issues.

References[edit]