First Affirmative Financial Network withdrew a shareholder proposal filed at SBA Communications, Inc. that asked the company to issue a report describing the company’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies, performance, and improvement targets. SBA Communications owns and operates wireless infrastructure in the US, Canada, and Central and South America and is a recent addition to the S&P 500. The Company is amongst a small minority of our major portfolio holdings that lack sustainability reporting, and is in the 15% minority of S&P 500 companies lacking such reporting.
We are pleased that negotiations with the company resulted in a commitment to expand their disclosures on ESG issues, to include:
- board oversight of material sustainability issues
- energy footprint and ongoing initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- physical impacts of climate change
- ecological impact policies in site management and selection
- links to existing employee safety information and addition of recordable injuries data, updated annually
- discussion of employee diversity initiatives and diversity data
In less than a decade, sustainability reporting has emerged as a standard corporate practice. However, there is still much work to be done. Standard corporate practice does not mean standardized, verified information. The data presented by companies can vary tremendously in the content and metrics provided, making ESG performance comparisons between companies a challenge. There is also no minimum required standard of reporting to compel the lagging companies to disclose sustainability information.
We are approaching over a dozen other companies in our portfolio that lack comprehensive sustainability reporting over the course of 2019 to discuss our concerns, and will file shareholder proposals if necessary. We continue to support standardized reporting initiatives and have signed a petition asking the SEC to develop mandatory ESG reporting guidelines for public companies.