IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

One proxy at a time : pursuing social change through shareholder proposals


  • Paula A. Tkac


Traditional economic wisdom holds that a corporation?s sole goal should be to maximize shareholder wealth. But some investors believe that firms should also act as agents for social change. Activist investors use their shareholder rights to place socially responsible resolutions on corporate proxy statements to be voted on by all shareholders. ; This article examines the controversy behind corporate social responsibility (CSR) and identifies and categorizes activist investors, their objectives, and the firms they target. Using data from the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC) on 2,829 CSR shareholder proposals from 1992 to 2002, the author finds that religious organizations and individuals made the largest number of proposals, but in 2000 proposals by socially responsible mutual funds began to outnumber those by individuals. The three most common proposal topics were international conduct, environmental issues, and antidiscrimination. ; Of the 566 different corporations targeted, seventy-three were targeted ten times or more. Larger, economically powerful firms?especially those that value consumer goodwill and have the ?name? to aid in social change?were most often targeted. ; Because a withdrawn resolution usually signals an action by the corporation?dialogue, agreement to resolution, or some other compromise?the author argues that withdrawn proposals can be used as measure of activism?s success. The IRRC data and her own extensive research on the outcome of withdrawn proposals support this argument.

Suggested Citation

  • Paula A. Tkac, 2006. "One proxy at a time : pursuing social change through shareholder proposals," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, vol. 91(Q 3), pages 1-20.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedaer:y:2006:i:q3:p:1-20:n:v.91no.3

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Willard T. Carleton & James M. Nelson & Michael S. Weisbach, 1998. "The Influence of Institutions on Corporate Governance through Private Negotiations: Evidence from TIAA-CREF," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(4), pages 1335-1362, August.
    2. Roberta Romano, 2001. "Less is More: Making Shareholder Activism a Valuable Mechanism of Corporate Governance," CeRP Working Papers 12, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Grewal, Jody & Serafeim, George, 2020. "Research on Corporate Sustainability: Review and Directions for Future Research," Foundations and Trends(R) in Accounting, now publishers, vol. 14(2), pages 73-127, September.
    2. Emma Sjöström, 2008. "Shareholder activism for corporate social responsibility: what do we know?," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(3), pages 141-154.
    3. Michelon, Giovanna & Rodrigue, Michelle & Trevisan, Elisabetta, 2020. "The marketization of a social movement: Activists, shareholders and CSR disclosure," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 80(C).
    4. Erwin Eding & Bert Scholtens, 2017. "Corporate Social Responsibility and Shareholder Proposals," Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 24(6), pages 648-660, November.
    5. Emma Sjöström, 2010. "Shareholders as Norm Entrepreneurs for Corporate Social Responsibility," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 94(2), pages 177-191, June.
    6. Vanessa Serret & Sylvie Berthelot, 2013. "Activisme Actionnarial Et Responsabilite Sociale Des Entreprises Au Canada : Analyse Des Resolutions Soumises Par Les Actionnaires Entre 2000 Et 2011," Post-Print hal-01002373, HAL.
    7. Hadani, Michael & Doh, Jonathan P. & Schneider, Marguerite, 2019. "Social movements and corporate political activity: Managerial responses to socially oriented shareholder activism," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 156-170.
    8. Stuart L. Gillan & Laura T. Starks, 2007. "The Evolution of Shareholder Activism in the United States," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 19(1), pages 55-73, January.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Renneboog, L.D.R. & Szilagyi, P.G., 2009. "Shareholder Activism through the Proxy Process," Other publications TiSEM cc25d736-2965-4511-b100-1, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    2. Erenburg, Grigori & Smith, Janet Kiholm & Smith, Richard, 2016. "Which institutional investors matter for firm survival and performance?," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 348-373.
    3. Roberta Romano, 2002. "Does Confidential Proxy Voting Matter?," NBER Working Papers 9126, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Romano, Roberta, 2002. "Does Confidential Proxy Voting Matter?," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt9z88z4th, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
    5. Roberta Romano, 2002. "Does Confidential Proxy Voting Matter?," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm300, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Feb 2003.
    6. Szilagyi, P.G., 2007. "Corporate governance and the agency costs of debt and outside equity," Other publications TiSEM 9520d40a-224f-43a8-9bf9-b, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    7. Benjamin E. Hermalin & Michael S. Weisbach, 2003. "Boards of directors as an endogenously determined institution: a survey of the economic literature," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, vol. 9(Apr), pages 7-26.
    8. Kim, Incheol & Miller, Steve & Wan, Hong & Wang, Bin, 2016. "Drivers behind the monitoring effectiveness of global institutional investors: Evidence from earnings management," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 24-46.
    9. Khan, Zazy, 2015. "Activist Hedge Funds: Evidence from the Recent Financial Crisis," MPRA Paper 72025, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 27 May 2016.
    10. Becht, Marco & Bolton, Patrick & Roell, Ailsa, 2003. "Corporate governance and control," Handbook of the Economics of Finance, in: G.M. Constantinides & M. Harris & R. M. Stulz (ed.),Handbook of the Economics of Finance, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 1-109, Elsevier.
    11. Foley, Maggie & Cebula, Richard & Houmes, Robert, 2014. "Contesting Corporate Control in the U.S.: The Role of Ownership Structure and the Anti-takeover Measure," MPRA Paper 55428, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Farid Radmehr & Tolga Cenesizoglu, 2019. "The Causal Effect of Institutional Ownership on Firm Level Risk Characteristics," Cahiers de recherche / Working Papers 2, Institut sur la retraite et l'épargne / Retirement and Savings Institute.
    13. Stuart L. Gillan & Laura T. Starks, 2002. "Institutional Investors, Corporate Ownership, and Corporate Governance: Global Perspectives," WIDER Working Paper Series DP2002-09, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    14. Zhang, Xinde & Zhou, Simiao, 2018. "Bond covenants and institutional blockholding," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 136-152.
    15. Mazur, Mieszko & Salganik-Shoshan, Galla & Walker, Thomas & Wang, Jun, 2018. "Proximity and litigation: Evidence from the geographic location of institutional investors," Journal of Financial Markets, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 60-74.
    16. Sakaki, Hamid & Jory, Surendranath Rakesh, 2019. "Institutional investors' ownership stability and firms' innovation," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 10-22.
    17. Melissa Newham & Jo Seldeslachts & Albert Banal-Estanol, 2018. "Common ownership and market entry: Evidence from the pharmaceutical industry," Working Papers of Department of Management, Strategy and Innovation, Leuven 623896, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB), Department of Management, Strategy and Innovation, Leuven.
    18. Chou, Julia & Ng, Lilian & Wang, Qinghai, 2011. "Are better governed funds better monitors?," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 1254-1271.
    19. Isil Erel & Léa H. Stern & Chenhao Tan & Michael S. Weisbach, 2018. "Selecting Directors Using Machine Learning," NBER Working Papers 24435, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Chitru S. Fernando & Vladimir A. Gatchev & Paul A. Spindt, 2013. "IPO offer price selection, institutional subscription, and the value of the firm: theory and evidence," Chapters, in: Mario Levis & Silvio Vismara (ed.),Handbook of Research on IPOs, chapter 5, pages 101-123, Edward Elgar Publishing.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fip:fedaer:y:2006:i:q3:p:1-20:n:v.91no.3. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.