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Thu, 04/18/2002 - 13:00 | by Wesley Furgiuele
April 18, 2002
DOMINI SOCIAL INVESTMENTS ANNOUNCES 2002 SHAREHOLDER PROPOSALS
Socially Responsible Firm Focuses on Sweatshops and the Environment, Continues Push for Greater Corporate Transparency
New York, NY – Domini Social Investments, manager of the Domini Social Equity Fund (NASDAQ: DSEFX), the nation's oldest and largest socially responsible index fund, announced today that it has filed nine shareholder resolutions for the 2002 proxy season and is engaged in ten separate dialogues with companies on a range of social and environmental issues.
"Responsible investing requires responsible ownership," said Amy Domini, Founder and a Managing Principal of Domini Social Investments. "By filing shareholder proposals on social and environmental issues, and through constructive dialogue with companies, we are helping to make corporations more accountable to their stockholders, employees, communities and the environment."
Several of Domini's 2002 shareholder initiatives involve the sweatshop issue, on which the firm has been active for a number of years. In addition to filing shareholder resolutions with The Gap (NYSE: GPS) and Sears, Roebuck (NYSE: S) this season, Domini is also engaged in dialogue with The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS), McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) and Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN) regarding international labor standards. Domini's resolution with The Gap (NYSE: GPS) was withdrawn when the company agreed to work with Domini and other concerned investors to explore the development of assessment methods for benchmarking and reporting vendor compliance activities and progress. Also as a result of dialogues, McDonald's has produced its first public report on its vendor standards compliance program, and Nordstrom recently announced that it would be adding "freedom of association" to its global code of conduct.
Domini's 2002 shareholder activism initiatives also focus on environmental issues. Domini's two-year dialogue with Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER) about the social and environmental impacts of Merrill's investments showed signs of progress when Merrill's CEO & Chairman cited China's Three Gorges Dam at the recent World Economic Forum Summit in New York. "One important goal of our dialogue has been realized - our concerns about the disastrous impacts of this dam have been raised to the highest levels of the firm," said Adam Kanzer, Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Domini Social Investments. Domini also initiated a dialogue with Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) asking the company to refrain from using old growth timber and to set goals for using recycled content in popular paper products such as Bounty paper towels and Charmin bath tissue.
Domini was a co-filer this year on resolutions calling on The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) to report on progress in meeting beverage container recycling goals, and on Pepsi Co. (NYSE: PEP) to adopt a comprehensive recycling policy. Coca-Cola has agreed to increase the recycled content in its plastic bottles and participated in a project, along with recycling companies, environmental organizations and government agencies, to comprehensively evaluate recycling opportunities throughout the beverage container value chain. Pepsi recently followed Coca-Cola's lead by announcing that it would begin including recycled content in its plastic bottles sold in the United States.
Domini is also working to encourage corporations to improve the way they treat their employees. For the second consecutive year, Domini is asking AT&T (NYSE: T) to revise its employee pension plan so as not to discriminate against longer-term employees. Domini also co-sponsored a resolution with Emerson (NYSE: EMR) for the second consecutive year, asking it to adopt a written policy barring discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Emerson resolution received 10.2% of the shareholder vote at the company's annual meeting on February 5, ensuring the right to return to Emerson for a third year with this issue.
Domini also co-filed a resolution with Cooper Industries (NYSE: CBE) to issue annual sustainability reports; with Household International (NYSE: HI) asking it to link executive pay to progress on eliminating predatory lending practices; and with Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), concerning the firm's global code of conduct. This resolution was withdrawn after the firm committed to a dialogue with proponents. The Cooper Industries resolution received a very strong 21.85% vote at their annual meeting on April 5. Management has agreed to meet with proponents.
In addition to filing shareholder resolutions and initiating dialogues with companies, Domini has been extremely active on shareholder disclosure issues of late. Three years ago, the firm became the first mutual fund manager in America to publish its proxy votes. Last December, Domini filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), urging adoption of a rule requiring all mutual funds to publicly disclose their proxy votes. The firm also recently revised its Proxy Voting Guidelines to emphasize greater corporate transparency on auditor independence and other issues.
"We think mutual fund shareholders have a right to know how their shares are voted on important issues of corporate governance and social and environmental responsibility," says Ms. Domini. "In light of revelations about corporate practices at Enron and other companies, where small groups of management insiders seemed more interested in self-enrichment than in benefiting shareholders, we think shareholder vigilance and increased corporate transparency are more important than ever."
Domini Social Investments manages more than $1.8 billion in assets for individual and institutional investors seeking to create positive change by integrating social and environmental values into their investment decisions. Its flagship fund, the Domini Social Equity Fund, was the first socially and environmentally screened index fund and is the nation's largest socially responsible index fund. The Fund includes companies with positive records in community involvement, the environment, diversity and employee relations, and excludes companies deriving significant revenues from alcohol, tobacco, gambling, nuclear power and weapons contracting. In addition to the Domini Social Equity Fund, the company also offers the Domini Social Bond Fund (NASDAQ: DSBFX) and an FDIC-insured money market account (in partnership with ShoreBank), both of which focus on community economic development.
Domini is working with a number of concerned investor groups and non-governmental organizations on its 2002 shareholder initiatives, including the As You Sow Foundation, Friends of the Earth, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the International Rivers Network, the National Wildlife Federation, the Pride Foundation, Walden Asset Management, and a number of large institutional investors, including the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church.
For additional information on Domini's shareholder activism and proxy voting initiatives, information on the Domini Funds, or a free copy of the firm's 44 page Proxy Voting Guidelines & Shareholder Activism booklet, call (800) 762-6814, or visit the firm's web site
The Domini Social Equity Fund and the Domini Social Bond Fund are subject to market risks and are not insured. You may lose money. Some of the Domini Social Bond Fund's community investments may be unrated and carry greater credit risks than the Fund's other investments. Although the Domini Funds are no-load, certain fees and expenses apply to a continued investment and are described in the prospectus. Please obtain a prospectus by calling 1-800-762-6814 or online at www.domini.com. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.
As of March 31, 2002, the companies mentioned above represented the following percentages of the Domini Social Index Portfolio: AT&T: 0.99%, Coca-Cola Co.: 2.32%, Cooper Industries: 0.07%, Emerson: 0.43%, The Gap: 0.23%, Household International: 0.46%, Johnson & Johnson: 3.55%, McDonald's: 0.64%, Merrill Lynch: 0.83%, Nordstrom, Inc.: 0.06%, PepsiCo.: 1.61%, Procter & Gamble: 2.10%, Sears, Roebuck: 0.30%, The Walt Disney Co.: 0.84%. The DSIP's holdings are subject to change. Unlike other mutual funds, the Domini Social Equity Fund (DSEF) seeks to achieve its investment objective by investing all of its investable assets in the DSIP, a separate portfolio with an identical investment objective. DSIL Investment Services LLC (DSILD), Distributor. The Domini Social Equity Fund is not affiliated with any bank and is not insured. DSILD and ShoreBank are not affiliated. Domini Social Investments, Domini Social Equity Fund, Domini Social Bond Fund and Domini Money Market Account are registered service marks of Domini Social Investments LLC.