Shareholder proposals classified as “social policy” involve corporate policies unrelated to shareholder voting rights and board governance or executive pay. Proposals of this type include:

  • Environmental proposals related to climate change and other issues;
  • Nondiscrimination and equal-opportunity-employment policies;
  • Human-rights and animal-rights concerns;
  • Military-supply and foreign-policy-related issues;
  • Statements on health-care reform; and
  • Disclosure of corporate political spending and contributions.

Supporters of proposals in this category typically subscribe to broad notions of “shareholder democracy” and believe that the corporate governance process is an appropriate tool for instilling “corporate social responsibility,” and other objectives beyond maximizing share price. Critics contend that such proposals are better left to the regulatory and legislative processes and are inappropriate for shareholder votes, since shareholders generally invest in companies to generate a positive financial return.

To learn more about social policy, please visit our references page.




In the second of its series of New Findings, the Manhattan Institute released information from the Proxy Monitor database focused on social policy issues. Findings include that over 40 percent of all shareholder social policy proposals relate to political activity, particularly political campaign contributions and trade associations. Other data from the Proxy Monitor New Findings reveals environmental and human rights issues are at the forefront of shareholder proposals for social policy.

Howard Husock interviews James Copland about the second in the New Findings series from the Proxy Monitor database. Listen to their discussion.



  • Animal Rights—Many shareholder proposals relate to the humane treatment of animals, including prohibitions on the use of animals in research testing (typically for pharmaceutical companies) or rules governing the manner in which animals are slaughtered (typically for food-service companies).

  • Employment Rights—These proposals relate to companies’ non-discrimination policies and typically involve employment diversity, with a significant subset relating to sexual-orientation or gender-identity non-discrimination policies.

  • Human Rights—These proposals typically involve companies doing business overseas, directly or indirectly, in countries whose governments are alleged violators of human rights. Proposals typically call on companies to report on human rights issues in these foreign countries or to adopt policies on handling human rights issues.

  • Health Care—Proponents of these proposals seek to force companies to adopt statements of comprehensive health-care reform principles, including the proposition that health care should be universally available, continuous, and affordable. Some of these proposals are limited to U.S. health-care policy, while others address global health-care issues.

  • Environmental —Various proposals compel companies to adopt policies or report on their policies and procedures relating to environmental issues, including the recycling of beverage containers, wetlands policies, greenhouse gas emissions and the potential financial risks posed by climate change, energy technology, and general “sustainability.”

  • Political Spending – These proposals address corporations’ spending on politics, through lobbying operations, through donations made or dues paid to various trade associations or public-policy organizations, or through dollars spent directly in support of or in opposition to particular candidates for office. Typically, these proposals call for transparency, including details of dollar amounts spent, and often call for a shareholder vote on fully disclosed spending plans for the coming year.   


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