In the proxy season just ended in June, Friends Fiduciary Corporation engaged over 40 companies on a variety of environmental, social, and governance issues. Several new issues were engaged: anticompetitive practices by pharmaceutical companies, hydrofluorocarbons in grocery refrigeration systems, and racial equity audits.
Work continued on corporate lobbying, political contribution transparency, and alignment with company values. Ensuring company assets are expended consistent with a company’s stated public positions and values is an important business concern, particularly with recent political efforts to infringe on voting rights and undermine democratic processes. Misalignment in such spending can expose companies to significant reputational risk, which can negatively affect long-term shareholder value.
Friends Fiduciary’s philanthropic services support Quaker meetings and organizations. Nine groups are currently taking advantage of the newly launched online giving initiative, which is open to meetings, churches, and Quaker nonprofits. During the past year Friends Fiduciary processed over $30,000 in contributions benefiting participating organizations.
This fall, the 2022 Quaker Fundraisers Gathering will offer in-person and virtual opportunities for volunteer and professional fundraisers to learn and connect on fundraising for Quaker organizations. The event will be held November 3–4 in Philadelphia, Pa., and on the web. This year’s theme is “Rejuvenate, Reframe, Rejoice!”
Friends Fiduciary witnesses to Quaker values by directly engaging some of the largest corporations on a variety of environmental, social, and governance issues. Climate change, while impacting everyone, has and will continue to disproportionally affect communities of color and lower income communities, making it both an environmental and a social justice issue.
This year, Friends Fiduciary engaged the rail company Norfolk Southern on the issue of climate lobbying, ultimately filing a proposal asking Norfolk Southern to evaluate its direct and indirect lobbying for alignment with the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to below 2 degrees celsius. Friends Fiduciary believes companies that publicly support environmental sustainability should not be financially supporting trade associations or other organizations that lobby against climate initiatives. From a business perspective, this exposes the company to reputational risk; from a values perspective, this is inconsistent with the Quaker values of integrity, transparency, and stewardship.
The proposal received support from a remarkable 76 percent of shares voted, the highest approval percentage for any climate lobbying resolution to date. Friends Fiduciary continues to engage on this issue and hopes this vote indicates a shift among the largest institutional investors to recognizing the urgency and material risk of climate change.
With generous support from the Thomas H. & Mary Williams Shoemaker Fund, Friends Fiduciary is now offering online giving options for meetings and small Quaker organizations through a custom webpage for each participating organization to highlight and encourage giving through simple and convenient means. Currently, a handful of meetings are serving as first adopters to vet the new giving portal and custom giving webpages.
Friends Fiduciary is also continuing its active witness to Quaker values via its shareholder engagement program. One focus area is just transition—meaning an equitable transition to a low-carbon economy that takes workers and communities into account. Friends Fiduciary has joined other investors led by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility to engage with utility companies, asking that they responsibly move away from fossil fuel without leaving workers behind while also centering on the concerns of communities, particularly communities of color, in their planning processes. The investor coalition has engaged many stakeholders, including unions and environmental justice groups, in an effort to ensure that investors are connected with and accountable to the people who are most impacted.
As the COVID-19 pandemic and deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others at the hands of police have laid bare the inequality and racism endemic to U.S. society and the economy, Friends Fiduciary has been working across its operations for a more just, equitable, and inclusive world.
Friends Fiduciary joined other investors in asking companies to provide paid leave, maintain employment, and prioritize health and safety in the pandemic. It asked pharmaceutical companies to think carefully about how their actions will affect vulnerable communities, particularly when pricing products. And it continued working for racial justice, using its leverage to catalyze changes in corporate policies and practices that have particularly impacted people of color, including urging banks to sever ties with the private prison industry and voting against all directors of company boards without a woman and a person of color.
Giving from established donor-advised funds at Friends Fiduciary has increased dramatically. Over the past several months, Friends Fiduciary has worked with donors to get funds to nonprofits addressing food insecurity, homelessness, and racial justice.
After careful consideration of long-term sustainability, shareholder value, and care for creation, Friends Fiduciary recently announced that it is eliminating all fossil fuel stocks across its funds. More information about this decision, shareholder engagement work, and the planned giving program is available at the website.