On January 14, 2021, Laurel Hill Advisory Group (“Laurel Hill”) and Fasken hosted a webinar on ESG (environmental, social and governance) considerations of which companies should be aware for the upcoming 2021 proxy season. The webinar’s panelists were David Salmon of Laurel Hill and Emilie Bundock, Stephen Erlichman and Grant McGlaughlin of Fasken and was moderated by Gordon Raman of Fasken. Set out below are some of the comments made by the speakers on the webinar.
The importance of ESG considerations in today’s corporate governance model has developed over the past 50 years. In the early 1970’s the Milton Friedman view of corporations was the dominant business mindset. In a forceful New York Times article he said that business leaders that “believed business is not concerned ‘merely’ with profit but also with promoting desirable ‘social’ ends …[were]… preaching pure and unadulterated socialism”. Since that time, certainly in North America, corporations have assumed a central role in the growth of economies. With that central role has come the recognition that corporations play a greater role in society, as noted in 2017 by Larry Fink, the head of Blackrock. In his annual letter to CEOs he wrote: “ To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”
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