Zevin Asset Management believes "trickle-down diversity" is not working and is targeting companies with a new series of ESG-related proposals which are focusing on core HR practices, like employee leave policies, in addition to continued efforts on gender pay equity. The first target, discussed in a Bloomberg article, is Starbucks, which is known as a marquee firm offering very progressive employee policies and benefits. However, Zevin Asset Management, in a "first-of-its-kind" shareholder proposal is requesting Starbucks prepare a report on its new employee leave policy. Zevin believes the policy, which offers mothers at corporate headquarters 18 weeks paid leave compared to just six weeks for store employees while excluding fathers, is "particularly unequal". According to the Bloomberg report, Zevin believes the "divide between headquarters and the front-line workforce can erode morale" and that the situation presents a discrimination risk. In response, Starbucks pointed out that its policy applies to employees who work 20 hours a week with no tenure requirement. It will be interesting to see whether Zevin's resolution on employee leave will survive the SEC's rules for excluding shareholder proposals or whether Starbucks will seek to engage the investor and/or exclude the proposal. Starbucks is not the only target of Zevin's efforts. Bloomberg notes that more than a dozen other companies, including Amazon and Costco will also get inquiries into their employee leave policies. Zevin's strategy of targeting marquee brand names is clearly aimed at setting market trends at the nation's top employers which would subsequently pressure companies competing for talent with those organizations to make adjustments to their own policies in order to remain competitive.
In addition to the employee leave efforts, fellow social investor Arjuna Capital, which conducted a gender pay equity campaign in 2017 plans to follow-up on its efforts and target additional companies as well as those which "failed to take meaningful action".