St Paul's Institute

Making a Difference Through Shareholder Activism

by Natalie Langford

Posted: 14 Jun 2012

Many of us have felt frustrated over the increasing inequality we have witnessed in the UK in recent years. The growing divide between the poorest and the richest is a pressing concern for society, and there is a place for charities, faith communities and trade unions to engage more with institutions and businesses on this issue.

By learning more about how financial investments can be used as a tool for change, we can reform the way that corporations behave and work for the benefit of all. This represents a positive transition from the all too common patterns of industry, where the externalities which arise tend to be to the detriment of the many and the privilege of a few.

Over the past decade, inequality in the UK has grown to unprecedented levels. Despite the ongoing economic problems, executive pay has grown by over 323% since whilst the average UK earnings have grown by a mere 54%. Across the nation, there has been a sense of outrage felt amongst many, but it is unclear how best we can express ourselves and change the situation. At FairPensions, we are keen to give everyone a voice on this issue and to empower individuals to take action against issues which affect people and planet.

Working alongside church investors and faith communities, we are exploring ways in which we can change the system for the better. We've seen the various forms of political and social action which has emerged from people's discontent with modern society. The Occupy movement has become a poignant symbol of this, but there are many different angles to approach the issue. By creating investor briefings and developing relationships with those who influence the direction of funds, we can help investors to make choices which not only maximise profits, but also take moral and social responsibility issues into account.

One of the key ways in which individuals can get involved, is through their pension fund. What people often don't realise is that we have the power to influence shareholders chiefly because it is our money which is used as capital within FTSE 100 companies. Many are alarmed that their savings are used to fund projects such as tar sands development, or human trafficking, and we give them a platform to say that "enough is enough".

FairPensions creates online action tools which allow people to connect with their pension fund. This year we are focusing on excessive boardroom pay. Already this year, we've seen three companies defeated over high pay at their annual general meetings due to shareholder action. The pressure to end spiralling executive bonuses will continue to dominate the headlines in 2012 and we want to get thousands of individuals to take action.

To take action on this issue, just visit and add your voice to the campaign.

Alongside petitioning, more individuals are turning to shareholder activism to voice their concerns. FairPensions supports and trains individuals in AGM action. Alongside workers, FairPensions staff and AGM army volunteers have attended over 20 AGMs this year, and are supporting workers on key issues such as wages and excessive remuneration.

If you would like to know more about how you or your local community can get involved in responsible investment then please contact to find out more.

About this author

Natalie Langford works in the campaign for responsible investment at FairPensions.

Comment on this dialogue


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of St Paul's Institute or St Paul's Cathedral.