Shareholder Advocacy

Azzad engages in shareholder advocacy on behalf of our clients by voting proxies and by filing resolutions and sending investor letters. Below you can find brief summaries of the investor letters we sent and the resolutions we filed for consideration at 2017 company meetings.

Shareholder advocacy refers to actions taken by shareholders to ask the companies whose stock they own to take an action or change behavior for the public good. One common way to do this is to propose shareholder resolutions to the company’s management to be brought to a vote at the company’s next annual general meeting. An individual or institution may file a shareholder resolution as long as they hold at least $2,000 worth of a company’s stock continuously for one year before filing and continue to hold at least $2,000 worth of stock through the date of the company’s annual general meeting. You can file resolutions with as many companies as you like during a given filing season; however, you can only file one resolution per company using your shares.

Shareholder resolutions may appear along with the company’s proposed changes on its proxy ballot, which all shareholders have a right to vote on. Mutual fund companies vote proxies on behalf of their clients. If you’re concerned about ethical issues with investing, it’s a good idea to find out how your mutual fund company votes. You can find Azzad’s proxy voting guidelines here.

Shareholder Resolutions

CHEVRON

Issue: No business with governments complicit in genocide — Burma

Background: The government of Burma (Myanmar) is committing human rights violations against its Rohingya ethnic minority to an extent that the UN has said may amount to crimes against humanity. In 2015, Chevron entered into a contract with the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise to explore for oil in the Rakhine Basin.

Request: The resolution asks that Chevron evaluate a policy of not doing business with governments that are believed to be engaged in genocide or crimes against humanity and to halt its relationship with the Burmese government until the state-sanctioned violence against the Rohingya ends.

This was the first shareholder resolution focused specifically on the Rohingya to be filed with a U.S. corporation. Azzad was the lead filer. The Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, U.S. Province, co-filed.

EXXON

Issue: Lobbying expenditures disclosure — climate

Background: In September 2016, information came to light indicating that Exxon had spent millions of dollars over several years to fund advocacy organizations that deny that fossil fuels contribute to climate change.

Request: The resolution asks that Exxon disclose its lobbying policy each year as well as the amounts and recipients of the money it spends on lobbying or other issue advocacy.

The United Steelworkers was the lead filer. Azzad co-filed the resolution.

GILEAD

Issue: Drug pricing

Background: A recent McKinsey report found that prescription drugs in the U.S. cost 50% more than equivalent products in other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations. By some accounts, more than 40% of people in fair or poor health have reportedly not filled a prescription or have reduced or skipped doses because of cost.

Request: The resolution asks Gilead to issue a report listing the year-to-year rates of price increases for its top 10 selling branded prescription drugs from 2010 to 2016, including the rationale and criteria used to set the price increases.

Trinity Health was the lead filer. Azzad co-filed the resolution.

MERCK

Issue: Drug pricing

Background: IMS Health research cites Americans paid $310 billion (after taxes and rebates) for drugs in 2015, an 8.5 % increase over 2014; while the Cost of Living Adjustment and the Consumer Price Index were both relatively flat at roughly 1.7 % for this same period. A Bloomberg/SSR Health analysis shows that the U.S. outpaces the world in the cost of branded medications in many cases by a factor of two, while a McKinsey report states prescription drugs in the U.S. cost 50% more than equivalent products in OECD countries.

Request: The resolution asks Gilead to issue a report listing the year-to-year rates of price increases for its top 10 selling branded prescription drugs from 2010 to 2016, including the rationale and criteria used to set the price increases.

The resolution was filed by the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order. Azzad co-filed.

ALPHABET (formerly GOOGLE)

Issue: Holy Land Principles

Background: The Holy Land Principles are a corporate code of conduct for U.S. companies doing business in Israel-Palestine. Launched by Father Sean McManus, the Holy Land Principles are based on the MacBride Principles, which Father McManus used to advocate for fair employment practices in Northern Ireland in the 1980s. The MacBride Principles eventually became the congressional standard for economic dealings with Northern Ireland and were adopted by dozens of U.S. cities, companies, and institutions.

Request: The resolution asks Alphabet to adopt the Holy Land Principles, which outline practices for fair employment in Israel-Palestine. Alphabet is one of 546 U.S. companies operating in Israel. Filing the shareholder resolution is not intended as an indictment of Alphabet’s current employment practices.

The resolution was filed by The Holy Land Principles, Inc. Azzad co-filed.

Investor Letters

NESTLE

Issue: Factory safety reforms

Background: On September 10, 2016, a boiler exploded at a Tampaco Foils Ltd. factory in Bangladesh. The resulting fire and building collapse killed 35 workers and injured dozens more. The Tampaco factory produces packaging for Nestle, among other companies.

Request: The investor statement calls on Nestle to put pressure on Tampaco to enact safety protocols at its factories in accordance with the Bangladesh Accord. Specific requests include: comprehensive fire and safety inspections including thorough inspections of boilers, worker training on fire and safety procedures, and compensation to the injured workers and to the families of the workers who were killed at the Tampaco factory.

The letter was prepared by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), of which Azzad is a member. Azzad was one of 66 companies or organizations representing a total $2.3 trillion in assets under management who signed the letter. Azzad delivered the letter to Nestle on behalf of ICCR and the coalition.

EXXON

Issue: Withdrawing from contract with Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)

Background: A Texas-based energy company called Energy Transfer Partners has been constructing a $3.8 billion pipeline (the Dakota Access Pipeline) that would run from North Dakota to Illinois. Indigenous people, specifically the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, protested the construction, arguing that it threatens supplies of drinking water and has already destroyed sacred sites, including burial grounds.

Request: The letter asks ExxonMobil to disclose whether it has a shipper relationship with DAPL. If it does have a shipping contract, the letter asks that Exxon not renew it until all outstanding pipeline issues are resolved with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Policy Advocacy

CFPB

Topic: Support the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

Action: Azzad joined a coalition of concerned institutions in signing a letter by the Interfaith Coalition for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) that calls on President Trump and members of Congress to support and protect the CFPB and its director, Richard Cordray, amid efforts to oust him before the end of his appointed term in July 2018.

Quote from the letter: “We are convinced that any steps to weaken the CFPB would jeopardize the financial health of American businesses, families, and communities, and would expose our economy to further risk.”

Date: February 2, 2017

STRATEGIC AND POLICY FORUM

Topic: Seeking action by CEOs asked to serve on Pres. Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum

Action: Azzad signed a letter by the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable and the Institute for Human Rights and Business calling on 19 CEOs who are members of Pres. Trump’s  Strategic and Policy Forum to: 1) speak out against the president’s executive order banning refugees and certain immigrants and legal residents, 2) urge the president to ensure respect for all workers without discrimination, and 3) urge the U.S. government to align corporate policies with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Date: February 1, 2017

Quote from the Letter: “Promoting respect for human rights and responsible business conduct will not only benefit the American people, but will ensure an inclusive and prosperous economy. … We therefore urge you, as business leaders accountable to your customers, employees, and shareholders, to show leadership and to use your influence to ensure that human rights are promoted not only through your business activities but through your engagement with the federal government.”

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION (SEC)

Topic: Dodd-Frank Section 1502 (Conflict Minerals Rule)

Action: Azzad joined a coalition of concerned institutions in signing an investor statement urging support for Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act and the SEC’s Conflict Minerals Rule, which requires companies to disclose whether they use conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or adjoining countries, and if so, to report their due diligence on the source and chain of custody of those minerals.

Date: February 13, 2017

Quote from the statement: “As sustainable and responsible investors, we look to the U.S. Administration and the SEC to continue their essential role in promoting responsible management and sourcing of raw materials. Through regulated disclosures, not only do companies and investors benefit, but we all indirectly contribute to a peaceful, prosperous, and stable conflict-free minerals trade in the DRC region, thereby further advancing respect for human rights in the global supply chains of U.S. companies.”