Presenting shareholder resolutions to press companies to adopt more socially responsible business practices, including comprehensive human rights policies and practices

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a coalition of 275 faith-based institutional inves­tors in North America, promotes shareholder resolutions to change unjust or harmful corporate policies and practices. As of 2003, the current combined portfolio of ICCR member organizations was estimated at about $110 billion.

ICCR members examine the social and environmental performance of the companies in which they invest. Rather than selling the stock of companies whose practices are harmful, the ICCR uses their financial hold­ings as a tool to pressure the companies to change their practices.

As shareholders, ICCR members place resolutions on social issues onto company ballots to be voted on at the annual meetings. In one example, nine ICCR-affiliated institutions co-filed a shareholder resolution with Amalgamated Bank and several other institutions. The resolution urged Unocal to adopt new company-wide policies based on the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and was submitted to Unocal shareholders in 2002. The shareholders argued that Unocal’s image was suffering because of questionable business practices in its Burmese pipeline project and that this was discouraging investment in Unocal. The proposed resolution received the highest vote on record in support of a human and labor rights shareholder proposal and caught the attention of the board and top management. In 2003, Unocal adopted policies based on the ILO declaration. In 2004, after ICCR members filed a resolution, Occidental Petroleum agreed to adopt a comprehensive human rights policy. ICCR pub­lishes an annual Proxy Resolutions Book containing shareholder resolutions filed that year so that managers can make informed decisions about proxy voting and investors can see trends in corporate responsibility.

Each year ICCR-member institutions submit more than 100 shareholder resolutions on social and environ­mental issues. In many cases, these resolutions open the door for negotiations between religious investors and company executives.


New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 

Shareholders and investors are often overlooked as potential actors who can improve human rights protec­tions in businesses.

While shareholder resolutions are not binding on companies, they do prompt company action when they receive support of a substantial number of shareholders. ICCR has been able to make its voice heard on important issues since 1971. Just as importantly, its tactic gives more people opportunities to participate in the advancement of human rights by changing the way they invest.