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Columbia Journal logoVolume Nine, Number Four   September 2004    www.columbiajournal.ca

    2004 Shareholder Campaign Highlights

    Deb and Perry Abbey             

    Another busy year for shareholder activists in Canada! And some notable break-throughs to report. First off, two new campaigns this year:

    Glass Ceiling Campaign:

    Real Assets filed with three Canadian technology companies this year, seeking a commitment to increasing gender diversity in senior levels. Although all three companies (Open Text, Research in Motion, and Aastra Technologies ) deny having such a problem in spite of their conspicuous lack of women at the top, their shareholders are not so sure!  And voted 46 per cent, 25.6 per cent and 19.3 per cent in favour of the resolutions. An excellent result for year one of the first glass ceiling shareholder campaign in Canada.

    HIV/AIDs in Africa:

    Resolutions filed with both Barrick Gold and Lionore Mining were withdrawn after dialogue with the companies convinced Real Assets that they are making serious and formal efforts to combat and alleviate the spread of HIV/AIDs amongst their mining workforces in Africa, including the use of anti retroviral treatment and agreement to at least evaluate using the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative*) guidelines for future reporting on the impacts of the disease and treatment. While this is but a tiny entrée into what is an enormous emerging crisis in Africa, we must be vigilant in pressuring Canadian companies to contribute to the solution.

    Continuing Campaigns:

    Responsible Finance:

    Two banks were the recipients of resolutions seeking improved reporting and increased transparency around environmental liabilities in their business and lending activities. While TD refused to circulate the resolution on a technicality, the Bank of Montreal, in a surprise last minute move, raised the bar for all Canadian banks by recommending support of the Real Assets resolution which led to a Canadian first and a 90.9 per cent vote in favour. And yes, we’ll be looking closely at BIMO to deliver the goods! You can find the mainstream press reaction to this vote in the March 22, 2004 MacLean’s article or search for Deb Abbey on www.macleans.ca to bring the article up.

    This historic vote has moved the whole Canadian banking sector forward and all of the “Big Five” banks are now jostling to be ahead of this issue (including, after the fact, TD) My very subjective read on it at this juncture puts CIBC, BIMO and Scotia Bank at the front of the pack, not necessarily in that order!

    Climate Change:

    Five resolutions this year calling for:

    Petro-Canada: Emission reductions and Climate Change Liabilities reporting (Real Assets) got 20.7 per cent in Favour
    Petro-Canada: Market Opportunities for Renewables (Ethical Funds) got 20.4 per cent vote in favour
    Nexen: Climate Change Liabilities (Real Assets) 5 per cent in favour
    Imperial Oil: Greenhouse Gas and Climate Change Liabilities  (Sisters of Saint Joseph and Sainte-Anne) received 4.1 per cent and 3.5 per cent votes

    Clearly still a lot to be done here!

    Human Rights and Responsible Water Use Campaigns:

    Both of these campaigns are currently focused on US companies, so I’ll be brief!

    A wide range of US and Canadian social investors who filed a fair trade coffee resolution with Proctor and Gamble last year have begun to see a positive initial outcome. P&G launched two online fair trade coffee products though their Millstone brand. Mountain Moonlight and Rainforest Alliance Certified Signature Roast are both Fair Trade Certified and available on www.millstone.com and we’ve heard reports that they will launch a retail fair trade product in the near future.

    Real Assets, working with Trillium Asset Management continues to monitor Coke and Pepsi’s progress on the issue of water scarcity. Of note this year is Pepsi’s agreement to use the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI*) guidelines to evaluate Pepsi’s water conservation practices. This should give us an important tool to gauge progress going forward.

    In addition to these social and environmental resolutions there were many “corporate governance” resolutions this past year, many sponsored by labour organizations. Less exciting, perhaps, but still important in our quest for a just and sustainable world. Please visit www.share.ca for all the details. *And www.globalreporting.org for info on these emerging sustainability reporting standards.

    Perry Abbey is an investment advisor at United Capital Securities, a Working Enterprises company. Helping individuals and organizations harmonize their money with their values and leverage capital for change. Real Assets is Canada’s first Investment Management firm solely focused on Social Investment, and is both a VanCity and a Working Enterprises company.

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