The Shareholders' Project
19 October 2001 at 1:10 pm
The role of shareholders and their relationship with the corporations in which they invest is being examined in a soon-to-be-released nation wide survey of shareholder attitudes and perceptions of investment.
The survey is part of a major national education campaign called the Shareholders’ Project and focuses on the perceptions and attitudes of over 1,000 Australians who own shares.
The project is an initiative by a group of professionals, academics and organisations led by the Myer Foundation. It is designed to provide the first real look at what is becoming an increasingly important issue with more than 50% of Australians now owning shares directly or indirectly through superannuation and managed funds.
Dr. Charles Lane, the CEO of the Myer Foundation says it’s timely to examine the changing nature of the shareholder-corporation relationship.
Dr. Lane says the Shareholders’ Project will play a vital role in driving debate within the investment community about corporate citizenship and shareholder involvement.
He says with such a high share-owning population, education of both shareholders and corporations about their respective rights and responsibilities is a key issue facing the investment community and the community as a whole.
Dr. Lane says many companies are facing the conflicting pressures of balancing financial performance and shareholder returns with emerging expectations about social investments and environmental behaviour, workplace practices and corporate governance.
Individual shareholders can voice concern about particular issues, but they have little impact on a Board’s decisions unless organised as part of a voting bloc – something that is not easy, particularly as Australians are notoriously poor respondents to corporate votes compared with their US counterparts. On the other hand, Institutional shareholders, as large-scale investors, have great capacity to influence decisions in a range of areas and increasingly they are exercising that influence as a matter of policy.
Dr. Lane says the Shareholders’ Project will add knowledge to, and possibly influence, this important process, with the beneficiaries being both shareholders and corporations.
A 22-member Advisory Group has been assembled to implement the Shareholders’ Project drawing from business, academia, government and Not for Profit organisations.
The project is sponsored by the Myer Foundation, the Victorian Department of State and Regional Development, the Council for the Encouragement of Philanthropy in Australia Trust (CEPA), The Lance Reichstein Foundation, Perpetual Trustees Australia Ltd and BP Australia.
The survey results are expected to be released in the next few days and Pro Bono Australia will have a full report in the next e-Newsletter.