[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] At its meeting in June, The Episcopal Church Executive Council adopted new proxy voting guidelines.
Episcopal Church treasurer Kurt Barnes explained that the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS) Proxy Voting Policy is based on the Church’s longstanding engagement in shareholder activism.
“The Episcopal Church shareholder resolutions engage in dialogues with corporations regarding social issues and votes its proxies on a broad range of issues,” Barnes said.
He added that the Executive Council Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (CCSR) regularly reviews proxy voting issues and makes recommendations for approval by Executive Council.
The updated Proxy Voting Policy is located here.
“Voting proxies is a time-intensive process,” Barnes said. “Proxy voting firms do the physical action of voting and provide advice on how to vote on various issues.”
He pointed out that many shareholders, including many Episcopal dioceses and parishes, do not vote their proxies but rely on their portfolio managers to do so. “Because portfolio managers tend to support corporate management, the church’s social goals may not be reflected,” he said.
“Socially responsible investing dates back thousands of years,” noted Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. “In biblical times, Jewish law laid down many directives about how to invest ethically. Jesus said more about money and its right use than about anything else except the Reign of God. In the 18th century, religious groups in the United States placed restrictions on their investments (including loans) in companies engaged in distilling, tobacco production and gambling facilities.”
She continued, “The tools for making money and making a difference with our money have never been more readily available. Wall Street did not develop products that reflect clients’ values on social, ethical, and environmental until the religious investing community asked for them. We ask for this because we want to ensure that our investments incorporate our social and moral values.”
Barnes noted that Executive Council encourages parishes and dioceses to: vote your proxies; sign up for the free proxy voting program sponsored by the Church Pension Fund; and obtain more information about signing up by e-mailing Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or staff consultant, Harry Van Buren, at email@example.com.