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Jun 15, 2023

ESG topics in proxy statements continue to ascend

By contrast, mentions of ESG initiatives on earnings calls is falling

With very few shareholder vote surprises this proxy season, we looked at the longer term proxy trends to assess what kinds of topics are generating increased attention by US corporate boards. Unlike conference call transcripts - where we have seen a general decline in ESG topics - proxy statements mentioning a wide range of ESG topics continue to increase. 

We analyzed quarterly proxy filings data going back to 2018: every chart shows the quarterly proxy filings containing a certain term. We then curated representative proxy statement quotes on these topics from prominent companies across industries. The source of all chart data is AlphaSense.

Environmental topics

'Science-based targets'

'Committed to set a science-based target in line with Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) protocols that includes Scope 3 emissions.' - Honeywell International

'Net zero'

'In fiscal 2023, Salesforce unveiled new climate justice policy priorities that focus on ensuring an equitable transition to net zero, promoting inclusive climate decision-making, and building community resilience.' - Salesforce 

'Renewable energy'

'There has been no material impact to our capital expenditures, results of operations or competitive position associated with global sustainability regulations, compliance, or costs from sourcing renewable energy. By the end of Fiscal 2025, our goal is to purchase or generate enough renewable energy to match 100 percent of our global electricity usage for our offices and data centers.' - NVIDIA


'We aim to help preserve and regenerate nature, to support biodiversity and engage the communities and farmers closest to natural ecosystems to build resilience together, and to help manage nature-related risks.' - McDonald’s Corporation 

'UN Sustainable Development Goals'

'Our goals demonstrate our ambition, create accountability and drive alignment with our business strategy. They are influenced by our stakeholders and by third-party frameworks such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals.' - Prologis

'ESG goals'

'To help further align our actions with our ESG goals, and to help ensure all Mastercard employees share in the responsibility to uphold these goals, we link our annual incentive programs for executives and employees to ESG performance measures, including quantitative objectives for financial inclusion, gender pay equity and GHG emissions.' - Mastercard

'Virgin plastic'

'Issuing our second Green Bond in the amount of $1.25 bn in July 2022 that will focus on investments in regenerative agriculture, decarbonization and climate resilience within our operations and value chain, circular economy and virgin plastic waste reduction, and net positive water impact' - PepsiCo

Social topics

'Equity audit'

'Also in 2022, as part of our existing commitment to human and civil rights, racial equity, diversity and inclusion, and non-discrimination, we retained a respected law firm to conduct an independent racial equity audit to evaluate any disparate racial impacts on our US hourly employees resulting from our policies, programs and practices.' - Amazon


'Health and welfare benefits… medical insurance including comprehensive transgender and fertility coverage, mental health, dental and vision.' - Tesla

'Employee resource group'/'Employee resource groups'

'T-Mobile also has six DE&I Employee Resource Groups and four sub-affinity groups that focus on dimensions of inclusion that are most relevant to our employees and company.' - T-Mobile US


'To this end, as discussed above, our Corporate Governance Guidelines require that the N&CG Committee seek to include diverse candidates, including women and minorities, in the pool of candidates from which it recommends director nominees and request that any search firm it engages include diverse candidates.' - Thermo Fisher Scientific 

Governance topics

'Independent chair'

'In addition, we believe that having an independent chair creates an environment that is more conducive to objective evaluation and oversight of management’s performance, increasing management accountability and improving the ability of the board to monitor whether management’s actions are in the best interests of the company and its stockholders. As a result, we believe that having an independent chair can enhance the effectiveness of the board as a whole.' - CrowdStrike Holdings

'Investor outreach'

' Following our 2022 annual meeting, we invited 26 shareholders, representing approximately 57 percent of our shares outstanding, including some who did not support our 2022 say-on-pay vote, to participate in calls to discuss our executive compensation program.  We conducted two rounds of investor outreach — one in the summer of 2022 and one in early 2023, to ensure we fully understood shareholder feedback, concerns and perspectives.' - Netflix

'At-risk pay'

'Our executive compensation program continues to be highly motivating, retentive and linked to increasing stockholder value. It is heavily focused on performance-based, at-risk pay.' - Qualcomm

'Strong governance' 

'Our commitment to good corporate governance stems from our belief that a strong governance framework creates long-term value for our shareholders, strengthens board and management accountability, and builds trust in the company and its brand.' - Caterpillar

Nick Mazing is the Director of Research at AlphaSense