NorthStar Asset Management, the Massachusetts-based socially responsible investment firm, has managed to get a shareholder proposal about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues onto the annual meeting agenda at consumer products giant Procter & Gamble.
The proposal calls for the company, owners of leading brands such as Gillette and Tide, to issue a public report to shareholders, employees, customers, and public policy leaders detailing the known and potential risks and costs to the company caused by “any enacted or proposed” state policies supporting discrimination against LGBT people.
It also wants the firm to detail strategies above and beyond litigation or legal compliance that it may deploy to defend the company’s LGBT employees and their families against discrimination and harassment that is encouraged or enabled by the policies.
The context of the proposal, the proponents say, is a “backlash” against the rights of LGBT populations against discrimination. They say there has been a surge in state policies encouraging or allowing discrimination against LGBT people.
In a letter to P&G’s Senior Counsel Giles Roblyer, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said: “We are unable to conclude that the proposal is so inherently vague or indefinite that neither the shareholders voting on the proposal, nor the company in implementing the proposal, would be able to determine with any reasonable certainty exactly what actions or measures the proposal requires.”It said it did not believe the Cincinnati-based company, whose top investors include Vanguard, BlackRock and State Street, may omit the proposal from the agenda of its forthcoming AGM which is likely to take place in October.
“We are unable to conclude that the proposal is inherently vague or indefinite”
P&G says it is committed to responsible operations and its social policies and practices document refers to animal welfare, conflict minerals, human rights statement and Supplier Sustainability Guidelines.
But its human rights statement, last updated in 2014 – although it supports the U.N. Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights – makes no mention of LGBT issues.
“We acknowledge that respecting human rights is an enormous challenge and progress will be made through a journey of collaboration and engagement with our stakeholders,” P&G says on its home page.
Last year P&G was due to face a shareholder proposal on proxy access by activists James McRitchie and Myra Young though it the event it was not voted on because it wasn’t presented at the meeting.
NorthStar, which this year has tangled with Facebook and IDEXX Laboratories, was founded by
Julie Goodridge in 1990.