Oct 7, 2005
Volume 33
Issue 40

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Shareholders persistence pays off-Emerson changes workplace policies to protect Gay and Lesbian employees
Shareholders persistence pays off-Emerson changes workplace policies to protect Gay and Lesbian employees
A strong coalition of socially-responsible asset management companies, in collaboration with the Pride Foundation, a Seattle-based funder for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) issues, is pleased to announce that the Emerson will include sexual orientation in their company-wide written nondiscrimination policies. The decision came after the coalition filed their fourth shareholder resolution with the company in August 2005. The coalition members are Domini Social Investments, Trillium Asset Management, Walden Asset Management, and NorthStar Asset Management, Inc.

"Everybody has acknowledged that this does make sense and that discrimination is not a good practice, and we have to be clear about how we implement (nondiscrimination policy)," said Adam Kanzer, general counsel and director of shareholder advocacy at Domini Social Investments.

The resolution received an astounding 34 percent approval from Emerson shareholders in 2004 after receiving endorsements from Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS). The previous high vote had been 13 percent. ISS analyzes proxies and makes voting recommendations to its clients.

Emerson is a large international conglomerate with interests in telecommunications, energy, engineering and tools. The company employs over 107,000 people worldwide and had sales of $15.6 billion in 2004. Emerson is ranked as the 134th largest public company employer in America, according to the Fortune 500 rankings.

"Emerson finally realized that most Americans support workplace protections for Gay and Lesbian workers and that their business was going to suffer without them," said Zack Wright, Pride Foundation board member.

In the past five years, several of these investment management firms have partnered with Pride Foundation with great success. They have been instrumental in persuading General Electric, McDonald's and, most recently, Wal-Mart to include sexual orientation in their company's EEO policies. Pride Foundation estimates these changes have affected some 1.3 million workers worldwide.

More than 417 of the companies in the Fortune 500 index, including 98 of the companies in Fortune 100 index, now explicitly bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to Human Rights Campaign (HRC). ExxonMobil and Plains All American Pipeline are the only members of the Fortune 100 index that do not explicitly state that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unacceptable at their companies.

A Pride Foundation press release

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