As ESG Pressures Intensify, Shareholders Demand Accountability

Eight shareholder proposals were filed at the annual company meeting for Facebook (now called Meta Platforms, Inc.), calling for more board oversight and various risk assessments, reports the Wall Street Journal. This trend is playing out across industries as shareholders push more vocally and firmly for better governance by companies.

Among the shareholders that filed proposals were the New York State Common Retirement Fund and the Illinois State Treasurer, and resolutions specifically called for board oversight regarding the reduction of harmful content, a risk analysis regarding the metaverse moves the company is making, and a review of the audit and risk committee. The same group of shareholders put forth six proposals last year, which included requesting an independent board chair, and were voted down.

The dual-class share structure that Meta utilizes allows certain shareholders to carry much more powerful voting powers — Mark Zuckerberg, the chairman and CEO, carries 58% of the vote via supervoting shares, should he wish to use them.

“Facebook is willing to allow a certain level of hate speech, political misinformation, and divisive rhetoric so it can make more money,” Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs said. “That is exactly why the board’s governance structure must change.”

The pushback from shareholders comes after the WSJ posted a series of articles detailing Facebook’s knowledge that its platforms caused harm for some users and didn’t take any action to change anything. The company has since faced a string of investigations and hearings into the matter, and the documents and findings released have presented an opportunity for shareholders to push for better transparency and governance practices.

Governance a Priority for EFIV

The SPDR S&P 500 ESG ETF (EFIV) takes a holistic approach to ESG investing by focusing on the environmental aspect of ESG and sustainability across the social and governance practices of the companies it invests in.

The fund tracks the S&P 500 ESG Index, which selects from top companies that meet ESG criteria within the S&P 500 while also adhering to the sector weights of the S&P 500 Index.

EFIV utilizes SPDJI ESG scores to rank companies based on their sustainability. This score is derived from analyzing a thousand data points covering various topics collected from companies and then asking roughly 120 questions, according to the S&P Global website.

EFIV excludes tobacco and controversial weapons companies, those that generate power from coal or derive 5% or more of their revenues from thermal coal extraction, and companies that score low on the United Nations Global Compact standards.

The ETF’s top three sector allocations are 32.40% in information technology, 14.41% in consumer discretionary, and 12.51% in healthcare, followed by several other smaller allocations.

EFIV does not invest in Meta (FB).

EFIV has an expense ratio of 0.10%, making it one of the cheapest ESG ETFs on the market.

For more news, information, and strategy, visit the ESG Channel.