Report Details Proxy Voting

Harvard’s Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility released its 2009 report yesterday detailing the University’s voting decisions on 19 shareholder proposals regarding issues of social responsibility, ranging from climate change to animal welfare.

The University, which has invested billions of dollars in shares of publicly traded corporations, votes by proxy each year on various proposals put forth by other shareholders, concerning corporate governance matters and social issues.

Harvard has considered over 100 such resolutions almost every year this past decade, but only voted on 19 this year “due to changes in asset allocation in effect during the 2009 proxy season.”

Six of the shareholder proposals that Harvard considered this year dealt with oil and gas corporation Exxon Mobil.

The CCSR voted in favor of proposals calling on the company to develop renewable energy alternatives and adopt sexual orientation anti-bias policies, but opposed requests for additional reporting on executive compensation policies.

The CCSR voted to abstain on a resolution asking Exxon Mobil to adopt “quantitative goals” for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

An Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility—a 12-member group composed of faculty, students, and alumni—analyzes Harvard’s proxy issues and makes recommendations to

the CCSR on how the University ought to vote its shares. The ACSR and CCSR handle issues of social responsibility, while the Harvard Management Company—which oversees the University’s endowment—addresses proposals regarding corporate governance.

University spokesman John D. Longbrake declined to elaborate on the CCSR report and Harvard’s proxy voting.

The CCSR voted in favor of the disclosure of The Boeing Company’s foreign military sales and calls for PepsiCo to increase container recovery and recycling.

Meanwhile, the CCSR voted in opposition to the adoption of universal health care reform principles by pharmaceutical company Abbott Labs.

The CCSR voted to abstain on proposals calling for five companies to provide additional reports on political contributions and expenditures, and to identify employees who helped to make such contribution decisions.

Earlier in the decade, the CCSR recommended that the University divest itself of stock held in PetroChina Company and Sinopec Corporation due to concerns about the oil companies’ ties with the Sudanese government and the ongoing Darfur humanitarian crisis in the country.

The CCSR currently consists of three members of the Harvard Corporation: Robert D. Reischauer ’63, James R. Houghton ’58, and Patricia A. King.

Senior Fellow Houghton announced earlier this week that he would be stepping down from the six-person Harvard Corporation—the University’s highest governing body—at the end of the academic year.

—Staff writer Peter F. Zhu can be reached at pzhu@fas.harvard.edu.

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