May 22, 2018
Plymouth Church participates in Trillium Asset Management’s work to encourage companies to improve their performance on important social and environmental issues. Shareholders like Plymouth Church provide a powerful voice that Trillium helps bring to bear by holding companies accountable for their role in contributing to a more just society.
Perhaps the most significant result of our work together this year was a shareholder proposal filed at The Middleby Corporation that received a 57.2% majority vote! A majority vote like this is rare for a proposal focused on social or environmental issues. A shareholder proposal is simply a request for a specific action that is ultimately voted on by all shareholders. We asked Middleby to publish a sustainability report discussing the company’s social and environmental practices. The fact that a majority of Middleby’s shareholders voted in favor of our proposal sends the Company a strong message that we’re onto something of great interest.
Middleby primarily makes kitchen appliances and equipment for restaurants, hotels and hospitals. Their customers include McDonald’s and Panera Bread. While Middleby may not be the biggest company in the world, it represents a significant footprint with over 8,000 employees scattered across 57 global manufacturing facilities.
Trillium chose to file this proposal on sustainability reporting for two main purposes: (1) it helps investors identify sources of risk and (2) public disclosure is an effective mechanism for holding companies accountable for their social and environmental impacts. This is an effective tool because once a company puts information in the public arena, it works to show how it is improving. As a result, sustainability reporting becomes an important lever to drive improvements in company behavior.
We hope this majority vote prompts Middleby to take a fresh look at how it can effectively support its 8,000-plus employees, be a strong community partner and minimize its environmental impact. –Allan Pearce is a Shareholder Advocate for Trillium Asset Management, LLC.