Apple shareholders vote to have the company conduct a civil rights audit

Apple shareholders vote to have the company conduct a civil rights audit

Apple shareholders on Friday approved a proposal that the company’s board of directors would conduct a third-party audit reviewing the company’s policies and providing recommendations to improve its civil rights impact. Apple opposed the proposal.

Apple shareholders generally vote the way management recommends, so the approval is a sign that a majority of investors think Apple can improve how it handles issues like pay equity between employees. gender, leadership diversity and privacy related to products like AirTags, all of which were mentioned in the proposal.

The proposal comes after a period in which Apple faced public challenges with a pay equity study executed by former employee Cher Scarlett despite Apple’s stance that it has a gender and racial pay equity policy, and reported diversity metrics that showed Hispanic and black employees make up only a small percentage of tech employees and executive positions at Apple.

Shareholders also narrowly approved a separate shareholder proposal ordering Apple to create a public report on how the company uses concealment clauses in employment contracts to deal with harassment and discrimination.

Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the new Apple Store Opening Event at The Grove on November 19, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

mario tama | Getty Images

SOC Investment Group, which backed the civil rights proposal with the Service Employees International Union and Trillium Management, welcomed the approval and said it would help investors check whether Apple’s actions match its public relations .

“We’re going to take the company’s own actions and say, ‘Okay, how do you meet your own commitments? “,” said Dieter Waizenegger, executive director of SOC. “Is your activity really moving the needle? Or is it just public relations? »

Waizenegger said the approval signals the growing willingness of large investors to vote for governance-related shareholder proposals in large public companies. Last year, Microsoft hired a law firm to review sexual harassment policies after its shareholders approved a proposal at its general meeting.

“These great investors really recognize the value of these types of reports and audits,” Waizenegger said.

Although the proposal is advisory, Waizenegger said, shareholders will generally hold the company’s board to account when something passes by a majority of shareholder votes.

Apple said it already meets the proposal’s goals through its current policies, and a representative declined to comment.

“Apple is already meeting the objectives of the proposal in a number of ways, including through impact and risk assessments, active governance and board oversight, engagement with our communities and key stakeholders, and regular and transparent public reporting,” Apple said in its power of attorney.

The proposal passed with just under 54% support from shareholders who voted and did not abstain, according to a Filing with the SEC on Friday.

Nia Impact Capital, which backed the non-binding concealment clause proposal, said on Friday it aimed to encourage Apple to foster an inclusive and positive corporate culture, and hoped the approval would signal increased attention from shareholders. on corporate governance and employee issues.

Apple opposed the proposal, saying it already had clear policies protecting employees’ right to talk about employment terms, and that it passed with just over 50% support from shareholders who have voted.

“It’s a huge message from investors who say they really care about human capital management,” Kristin Hull, CEO and founder of Nia, said in an interview.

At Friday’s meeting, Apple shareholders approved the company’s compensation plan, including the recent award to CEO Tim Cook of up to one million Apple shares, and re-elected the board of directors. administration of the company. Four other shareholder proposals were rejected.