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shareholder activism makes the headlines

October 2004

Shareholder activism has been the hottest topic in CSR over the past five years, an analysis of Ethical Performance contents in the period shows.

The indexes of EP for the five years since its launch in May 1999 list more articles on the subject – 28 in all – than on any other issue.

Shareholder activism has grown in importance in the UK and on the Continent, with institutional investors becoming more vocal, as well as in the US, where a longer tradition of activism has been enhanced by greater co-ordination among socially responsible investors on corporate governance, climate change and diversity.

Second most covered topic over the five years has been executive pay, with 26 stories, followed closely by 24 reports of concerns over corporate involvement in Myanmar (Burma), a staple item on the CSR agenda for a number of years.

Some areas that barely registered in the first three years of EP’s existence have risen to prominence in recent times. CSR in Australia, for instance, appeared as a topic only once in the period up to mid-2002, but has been mentioned 13 times since then.

The company most often featured was The Co-operative Bank, in part thanks to its world-renowned social reporting (24 stories), but BT also had a share of the limelight (20), as had British American Tobacco (19), mainly because of the contradiction seen in some quarters between its line of business and adherence to the principles of social responsibility.

Most mentioned organization was the ubiquitous Business in the Community (61), followed by Ethical Investment Research Services (40), the Institute of Social and Ethical Accountability (37) and the Global Reporting Initiative (36).

Most prominent firm on the investment side was Henderson Global Investors (20).

Among individuals, one key name over the past five years was Craig Mackenzie, who has been consistently in the news, first as head of socially responsible investment at Friends Ivory & Sime and more recently as head of investor responsibility at Insight Investment. He received as many mentions (12) as recently departed UK CSR minister Stephen Timms.

Matt Christensen, head of the European Sustainable and Responsible Investment Forum, and Bennett Freeman, the former US deputy assistant secretary of state who is now managing director for corporate responsibility at the public relations firm Burson Marsteller in Washington DC, also appeared frequently.

EP, which publishes an annual index each spring, entered its sixth year last May. In its first five years, it produced around 500,000 words of CSR-related news and comment. This is all available to subscribers at www.ethicalperformance.com




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