Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Overwhelmingly Shoot Down Climate And Diversity Proposals
Lacy O’Toole/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Berkshire Hathaway stockholders overwhelmingly rejected proposals related to the environmental, social, and corporate governance movement, also known as ESG, at a shareholder meeting over the weekend.

Board members at the investment and insurance conglomerate led by Warren Buffett had unanimously recommended that stockholders vote against three resolutions, two of which would have required the firm to publish annual reports on how executives manage “climate-related risks and opportunities,” and the third, which would have required the company to reveal metrics on “diversity, equity, and inclusion” efforts in hiring and employee retention. Shareholders voted against the resolutions on Saturday by margins of three to one or greater.

The climate proposals asserted that current disclosures from Berkshire Hathaway are “insufficient for investors to fully appraise climate-related risks and opportunities” and recommended that the company disclose how “climate and ESG attributes are considered in director elections and succession planning.” Board members contended that the “scope of the information and analysis requested” was inappropriate and noted that many portfolio companies already share data about their carbon emissions or other environmental concerns.

The diversity proposal suggested that published workforce data should “provide transparency on outcomes, using quantitative metrics for hiring, retention, and promotion of employees, including data by gender, race, and ethnicity.” Board members countered that current leaders at the firm who are members of minority groups were “not selected for diversity purposes.”

The rejection of the diversity measure comes two years after Berkshire Hathaway Energy, a subsidiary of the conglomerate, told employees that meritocracy is a “myth” and that “systems of power” can supersede hard work and personal motivation. The board statement against the diversity resolution suggested that managers across the conglomerate can “execute diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies that are tailored to the unique aspects of their businesses.”

Increasing the percentage of females or racial minorities in corporate workforces and establishing reporting requirements for climate risk are objectives often supported by proponents of the ESG movement, which has rapidly grown in prominence among leading companies in recent years even as skeptics contend that the philosophy mingles social causes with core business objectives in a manner that compromises or distracts from profitability.

Recent economic tumult has increased criticism toward the ESG movement among some managers and investors. ESG funds suffered amid last year’s underperformance among technology firms, which ESG investors tend to favor because of their emphasis on corporate social responsibility, and overperformance among energy companies, which ESG managers tend to shirk because of their dislike for industries with heavy carbon emissions.

Even as supporters of the ESG movement introduce shareholder resolutions at prominent firms, opponents propose resolutions that would diminish corporate adherence to the ideology. Shareholders at the Kellogg Company, for instance, recently considered a measure that called for a “return to merits” rather than hiring based on race or sex.


Berkshire Hathaway stockholders also overwhelmingly rejected a resolution that would have separated the offices of chief executive officer and board chairman, both currently occupied by Buffett. Peter Flaherty, the chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, was arrested while speaking in favor of the resolution after he alluded to the fact that the multibillionaire donates heavily to the foundation launched by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who reportedly met with deceased pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein on multiple occasions.

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