At their 2013 annual meeting, more than one-third of all Men’s Wearhouse (NYSE:MW) shareholder votes were cast in favor of a proposal asking the company to issue an annual sustainability report.
The shareholder proposal, filed by Trillium Asset Management on behalf of Susie Meade — with Walden Asset Management, a division of Boston Trust & Investment Management Company as co-filer — requests the Board of Directors to:
“issue an annual sustainability report describing The Men’s Wearhouse’s short-and long-term responses to ESG-related issues. The report should include, where feasible, objective statistical indicators and goals relating to each issue, be prepared at a reasonable cost and omit proprietary information”.
According to the Governance & Accountability Institute, during the reporting periods 2006 to 2010 just 19% of S&P 500 companies had published at least one sustainability report. By May 2012, more than one-half, or 53% of all S&P 500 companies have issued a sustainability report.
With more than 1,200 stores, Men’s Wearhouse is one of the largest specialty retailers of men’s apparel in the US and parent company to subsidiaries in the US and abroad. It contracts apparel primarily from suppliers in China, Indonesia and India – countries whose historically weak records on enforcing labor and human rights laws expose the company to heightened risks in its supply chain.
The company operates one central distribution center in Houston, TX which is in close proximity to the Gulf Coast. Men’s Wearhouse also dry cleans the largest volume of garments in the U.S., exposing the company to added environmental risks and opportunities.
“The vote of 34% supporting the call for expanded Sustainability Reporting sends a strong message to management and to the Board that a company of this stature is expected to describe its policies and programs on issues like the environment and climate, diversity and how they audit their supply chain”, noted Timothy Smith, Director of Environmental Social and Governance Shareowner Engagement at Walden Asset Management.
“In our first meeting with management we were told that Men’s Wearhouse is ‘not afraid of high standards’, said Susan Baker, Trillium’s Vice President Shareholder Advocacy & Corporate Engagement. “Yet, management was unable to commit to disclosing meaningful information concerning labor and human rights risks in its supply chain, environmental oversight procedures and sustainability goals. This strong vote, however, sends a signal to management that comprehensive reporting is important information that helps investors differentiate between companies that publicly acknowledge their accountability to social, environmental, and governance risks and opportunities and those that do not.” Baker concluded.