Press

Shareholder

Proposals

Address

Reproductive

& Maternal

Health

Benefits

January 24, 2023

/ PRNewswire /

Driven by the Dobbs decision, investors seeking action on benefits, data privacy, political spending, and more

In coordination with Rhia Ventures, investors have filed thirty-one (31) shareholder proposals addressing the intersections between corporate policy and reproductive health care, more than doubling the volume of last year’s activity.

This year’s filings build on a shareholder initiative launched in 2019. “Rhia Ventures is working with a network of institutional investors who are intent on seeing that the companies they hold in their portfolios do all they can to ensure access to the best reproductive and maternal health care,” said Rhia Ventures director of corporate engagement Shelley Alpern. “Together, these investors have engaged with numerous companies to drive changes in policy and practice.” Before this year, investors had collectively filed 28 shareholder proposals on this topic. 

In the 2022 proxy season, before last year’s US Supreme Court decision ending the constitutional right to abortion protections (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization), eleven proposals came to a vote concerning access to reproductive health care. Those proposals garnered significant support (30-47% of votes cast). Since the June ruling, more than 200 businesses have publicly disclosed or acknowledged improved benefits to support their employees as they navigate mounting obstacles to accessing abortion and other forms of reproductive health care. Rhia Ventures maintains an online database tracking these announcements at #WhatAreYourReproBenefits.

This year’s proposals fall into several categories: 

  • Ten proposals address corporate support for politicians and political committees seeking to deny access to reproductive health care in contradiction to their stated values.   
  • Nine proposals address threats to the privacy of reproductive health data collected and maintained by companies. 
  • Six call upon companies to report to shareholders on the risks posed to their companies by restrictive state policies and any strategies they are undertaking to minimize or mitigate these risks. 
  • Proposals were filed at two hospital companies concerning their policies around providing abortions.
  • Three health insurance companies received proposals concerning their plan offerings concerning abortion and contraception.
  • A proposal encouraging strong maternal health care benefits was filed at one retailer. 

Links to the proposal are appended below. 

The proposals note that beyond a moral obligation to address these issues, business interests are at risk. With increased competition for goods and services amidst globalized markets, consumers support companies that address worker needs and critical reproductive health care and abortion access. And the disconnect between political spending and stated values can damage the reputation and diminish the brand value and relations with clients, consumers, and other stakeholders.

“We know that one in four women will have an abortion in her lifetime. We believe that companies succeed when their employees thrive,” said David Stocks, executive director at The Educational Foundation of America. “We understand that state abortion bans impact companies by forcing their employees to take significant time off from work and spend hundreds of dollars traveling out of state. That’s why it’s important to EFA that companies support their workforce and reconsider their contributions to politicians harming their employees through enacting abortion bans.” The Foundation has filed proposals at three companies this year.

Dr. Ruth Shaber, founder and president of Tara Health Foundation, said, “The Dobbs decision has dealt a terrible blow to the availability of reproductive health care. We’re calling on companies to do all they can to mitigate these impacts.” Tara Health Foundation is the sponsor of five shareholder proposals this year.

“The US has chosen to make corporations responsible for the health of their employees through employer-based health insurance. In the wake of the Dobbs decision, that means corporations have an essential role to play in ensuring that everyone has access to full spectrum reproductive health care, including abortion access,” said Dorrit Lowsen, co-chief executive officer at Change Finance, which filed data privacy proposals at three companies.

“Protecting reproductive rights is critical to women’s health, but it’s also a business imperative,” said Natasha Lamb, managing partner at Arjuna Capital. “And in a post-Dobbs world, many companies are exposed to a new status quo that threatens their workforce and customers. Investors want to know how they will respond by updating health benefits, privacy policies, and aligning their political spending to support their commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Arjuna Capital has filed proposals at five corporations. 

Rob Fohr, director of faith-based investing and corporate engagement for the Presbyterian Church USA, said that the Church “has had a policy in place supporting reproductive justice for decades. As the access to reproductive health care has become more limited, the PCUSA has made additional statements supporting reproductive justice while recognizing that poor, young, or homeless people of color are at a greater disadvantage to finding the care they need.” 

“A company’s leadership is responsible for competently handling complex issues, particularly when those issues are controversial. As investors, we expect them to not turn a blind eye to reproductive health care. Companies need to be proactive in demonstrating to investors that they understand that reproductive health is a business issue. There are no companies without female employees or consumers,” stated Meredith Benton, principal at Whistle Stop Capital, a consultancy that supported Nia Impact Capital and As You Sow in filing shareholder resolutions at seven companies.

The names of some companies that have received proposals have been withheld because the proponents are in sensitive discussions with company management.

Data Privacy Proposals:

Alphabet – Arjuna Capital
American Express – Change Finance
CVSArjuna Capital, Presbyterian Church USA
LabCorp – Tara Health Foundation
Meta – Arjuna Capital
Paypal – Tara Health Foundation
Verisk – As You Sow
WalmartClean Yield Asset Management

Maternal Health Care Proposals:

Ulta Beauty – Tara Health Foundation

Political Spending Misalignment Proposals:

AbbVie – As You Sow
AT&T – As You Sow
Cigna – Clean Yield Asset Management
Coca-ColaClean Yield Asset Management
Comcast – Arjuna Capital
Pfizer – Tara Health Foundation, Nia Impact Capital
The Home Depot – Tara Health Foundation
UnitedHealth – The Educational Foundation of America
Walt Disney Company – The Educational Foundation of America

Risk Mitigation Proposals:

Coca-Cola – As You Sow
Costco – Arjuna Capital
Lowe’sThe Educational Foundation of America
United Parcel ServiceArjuna Capital