We wanted to share an update from Parnassus’ progressive work with improving corporate workplaces, in this case at Apple. Parnassus is a fund company we use whose flagship Endeavor fund (now the Value Equity Fund) has its roots in selecting companies who cultivated responsible workplaces.
As outlined in its Human Rights Policy, Apple is dedicated to upholding workers' rights in line with the International Labour Organization. Recently, corporate employees have raised issues associated with pay disparities, discrimination, and worker benefits. Additionally, retail employees staged a walkout and initiated efforts to unionize. Some workers have reported facing intimidation tactics aimed at discouraging labor organizing, including instances of retaliatory firings and threats of benefits reduction.
With this background, in September 2022, the Parnassus engagement team collaborated with concerned investors holding a collective $7 billion in Apple stock to file a shareholder proposal. This urged the board of directors to commission an independent assessment of Apple's adherence to its commitment to workers' rights. Misalignment on these issues could pose significant reputational, legal, and operational risks, impacting the company's long-term value, talent acquisition, and brand perception among consumers.
What I think is most interesting about these engagements is how large corporations are more receptive to feedback from shareholders than a decade ago. In the past, criticism was usually met with defensiveness from executives. From my conversations with Parnassus and other fund companies, corporations are increasingly seeing this “constructive” criticism as just that, a way to partner with shareholders and improve their business. It indicates that corporations take a less adversarial approach to feedback, knowing that they can reduce future risks by listening and responding appropriately.
A strong and loyal workforce is a competitive asset. In today’s tight labor economy, companies that can hire and maintain high-performing, diverse talent are better positioned to remain resilient in uncertain markets and deliver long-term value for shareholders.
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Blue Summit does not directly engage with companies listed above. Many, but not all clients, are invested in funds that perform this advocacy.