Non-profit

As You Sow

Location:

OAKLAND, CA

Tax ID:

94-3169008

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2020):

Revenue: $12,704,370
Expenses: $6,468,534
Assets: $9,355,170

Formation:

1992

Chief Executive Officer:

Andrew Behar

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As You Sow is a left-of-center advocacy organization that engages in shareholder action to force companies to adopt various left-of-center positions and practices known by the euphemism “corporate social responsibility.” The organization buys shares in the companies to force the companies to change their positions on issues through shareholder advocacy. The group also engages in coalition-building and legal strategies to force changes at targeted businesses.

As You Sow is one of the principal organizations responsible for publishing the annual Proxy Preview report, which details left-of-center environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) shareholder resolutions filed each year with public companies.

As You Sow receives significant funding from the Foundation to Promote Open Society and the Open Society Foundations, the two major grantmaking entities established and funded by billionaire financier George Soros.1

History

As You Sow was founded in 1992 in Oakland, California. The organization has argued that environmental and human rights issues can be solved by what it calls “increased corporate responsibility.” 2 It targets businesses including McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts in an attempt to force changes in business practices. In 2016, it filed a record number of shareholder petitions related to climate change, with few of them passing. 3

Political Activities

As You Sow works to spread influence in many ways. It works with shareholders to buy shares in targeted companies and then files resolutions at shareholder meetings to force companies to either change their business practices or remove certain ingredients from products. For example, in May 2017, As You Sow took credit for ExxonMobil taking a more supportive stance toward government regulations targeting climate change. 4

The group also works with other like-minded organizations such as the Sierra Club to force changes on companies. They also use legal strategies to expand the power of shareholders in setting policy and the use of the proxy. Finally, it awards some grants to allied organizations like the Sierra Club Foundation. However, the vast majority of these shareholder resolutions fail by wide margins.

Shareholder Advocacy

One of As You Sow’s signature methods of activism is encouraging shareholder advocacy, a tactic whereby shareholders in publicly traded companies use their stock ownership “to promote environmental, social, and governance change” through Securities and Exchange Commission-regulated resolutions. 5 On its website, As You Sow estimates that, thanks partially to its work, activist shareholders have made benefiting left-wing agendas a key consideration in over $3 trillion worth of investments by companies each year. 6

As You Sow was the lead filer on a failed December 2018 resolution againstAdvance Auto Parts. 7 According to SEC documents, As You Sow owns stock in Advance Auto Parts and submitted a proposal on behalf of another shareholder, the Gun Denhart Living Trust, that recommended the company join the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) movement, and begin factoring the environmental impact of climate change into company bookkeeping practices. 8 The resolution was blocked by Advance Auto Parts in 2019. 9

As You Sow signed behind the lead filer, the Presbyterian Church USA, on a resolution targeting the insurance company AIG10 that demanded that the company undertake extensive studies to examine the potential impact of climate change on the company’s revenues and costs. 11 The resolution was apparently successful at coercing the company since AIG’s 2019 shareholder information documents show that they committed to reviewing the impacts of a climate change scenario on their business. 12

As You Sow has also been the lead filer on two separate shareholder resolutions regarding climate change that were made against Chevron, a major energy company. 13 One resolution, with 33 percent shareholder support, demanded that Chevron issue a report on how the company could meet the carbon emissions reduction goals set forth in the Paris Climate Accords, and the other demanded that the company issue a report on the amount of plastic pollution the company produced annually. 14 15

Other major companies that As You Sow has been involved in submitting shareholder resolutions against include Amazon, Apple, Coca-Cola, Marathon, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Verizon, Shell, ExxonMobil, and Monsanto.16

As of April 2023, As You Sow’s website lists a total of 678 shareholder resolutions that is has filed over the years dating back to 2010.17

Proxy Preview Reports

As You Sow is one of the primary organizations responsible for publishing annual Proxy Preview reports, which catalog left-of-center environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) shareholder resolutions filed with public companies each year. The Proxy Preview reports are a collaboration between As You Sow, the Sustainable Investment Institute, and Proxy Impact, and “Proxy Preview” is a registered trademark of As You Sow. The Chicago Tribune has called it the “Bible for socially progressive foundations, religious groups, pension funds, and tax-exempt organizations.”18

According to the 2022 Proxy Preview, approximately 21 percent of ESG shareholder proposals filed that year were about climate change, 19 percent were about corporate political influence, 15 percent were about human rights, 12 percent were about decent work, and 9 percent were about diversity at work. Approximately 5 percent of resolutions were classified as “conservative” proposals.19

The 2021 Proxy Preview recognized dozens of shareholder resolution proponents including labor unions, pension funds, individuals, nonprofits, and asset managers. It singled out the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), Ceres, the Center for Political Accountability, and the Investor Environmental Health Network for particular acknowledgement.20

The dominant environmental issue for shareholder proponents in 2021 was climate change, with approximately 15 percent of all ESG resolutions that year having been filed on that issue. The Proxy Preview report noted that the nonprofit Ceres coordinated nearly all climate change proposals.2122 Climate change was the single largest ESG issue in 2022, with that year’s Proxy Preview noting that the topic accounted for approximately 21 percent of all resolutions filed. Many of these resolutions requested that companies adopt or report on emissions goals, and others asked banks and insurers to stop financing or underwriting new oil and gas development projects.23

Shareholder resolutions related to race and diversity increased significantly in 2021, compared to prior years. According to the Proxy Preview, proponents filed twice as many proposals related to diversity than they did in 2020. Approximately 16 percent of ESG resolutions filed in 2021 related to workplace diversity, while 9 percent related to board diversity/oversight. Some resolutions asked that companies publicly disclose diversity data, while others demanded proof of effective diversity programs. A campaign by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Change to Win labor federation sought racial equity audits at eight major financial institutions.2425

The 2022 Proxy Preview report noted that 48 resolutions were filed on workplace diversity that year, which represented a decrease from 2021. Resolutions categorized as “racial justice” proposals, however, more than doubled from 2021 to 2022, increasing from 22 to 51. An additional 18 proposals sought reports on board diversity.2627

The 2023 Proxy Preview classified 23 percent of shareholder resolutions that year as being related to climate change, and 17 percent as being related to corporate political influence. Resolutions related to abortion increased markedly in 2023. The 2023 Proxy Preview also changed the category name for resolutions put forth by right-of-center individuals and groups from “conservative” to “anti-ESG.” It classified 8 percent of proposals as being anti-ESG.28

Defunding of Business Groups

In May 2019, the Free Enterprise Project, a wing of the right-leaning National Center for Public Policy Research, called As You Sow “socialists” who use “extremely partisan … and deceptive tactics” to push businesses to “defund effective conservative organizations.” 29 Justin Danhof, general counsel for the Free Enterprise Project, claimed that As You Sow was attempting to force companies to withdraw support for pro-business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable because of supposed “reputational risk,” a risk Danhof claimed was only made real by As You Sow’s own smear campaigns against such organizations. 30

Funding

In 2014, the group received $1.7 million in contributions and generated another $522,231 in “program revenue.” However, it spent $2.1 million with $1 million spent on salaries and benefits for employees. 31

The group spent $531,579 in its campaign to combat climate change. The goal of the campaign was to push companies to take steps to mitigate their impact on climate. They supported shareholder resolutions to force companies to emit less greenhouse gases.

It also spent $855,870 on an anti-waste and environmental health campaign. Among the things the environmental health campaigned on was opposition to genetically modified food. However, scientific authorities reject the case against so-called GMOs, with Slate writer William Saletan characterizing the anti-food crusade as “full of fraud, fearmongering, and errors.”32

In 2017, the Del Amo Action Committee and the Rose Foundation gave grants in support of As You Sow. 34

In the past, the foundation has donated money to the Sierra Club Foundation, Women’s Voices For The Earth, and Treepeople Inc. 35

In 2020, As You Sow reported $12,704,370 in total revenue and $6,468,534 in total expenses. It reported having $8,775,836 in net assets at the end of the year.36

The Foundation to Promote Open Society and the Open Society Foundations, both part of George Soros‘s network of grantmaking entities, are major sources of funding for As You Sow. The two foundations granted a combined $1,700,000 to As You Sow from 2020 to 2021, $1,200,000 of which came from the Foundation to Promote Open Society.37

Other foundations and nonprofits that made significant grants to As You Sow in 2020 include the Energy Foundation ($400,000), the Stephen M. Silberstein Foundation ($240,000), the Wallace Global Fund ($170,000), and the Park Foundation ($110,000). The Tides Foundation made a $400,000 grant to As You Sow in 2021, and the Ford Foundation committed $325,000 in 2022. As You Sow has also received significant funding from the Battery Foundation, the Roddenberry Foundation, the Tara Health Foundation, the Sustainable Markets Foundation, and ImpactAssets.38

People

Andrew Behar is the chief executive officer (CEO) of As You Sow. Danielle Fugere is president and chief counsel. Conrad MacKerron is senior vice president.39 Cari Rudd is chair of the board, and As You Sow’s founder Thomas Van Dyck also serves on the board.40

References

  1. Robert Stilson. “The Proxy Preview: ESG in 2023.” Capital Research Center. April 7, 2023. Available at: https://capitalresearch.org/article/the-proxy-preview-esg-in-2023/
  2. As You Sow. 2017. “About Us “. Asyousow.Org. Accessed August 3 2017. http://www.asyousow.org/about-us/.
  3. “Record Number Of Climate Change Shareholder Resolutions Filed This Year”. 2016. Justmeans.Com. Accessed August 4 2017. http://justmeans.com/blogs/record-number-of-climate-change-shareholder-resolutions-filed-this-year.
  4. Ahead of Exxon’s annual meeting, shareholders and investors push for climate action. 2017. “Ahead Of Exxon’s Annual Meeting, Shareholders And Investors Push For Climate Action”. Business Insider. Accessed August 4, 2017. http://www.businessinsider.com/r-ahead-of-exxons-annual-meeting-climate-activists-gain-ground-2017-5.
  5. “Shareholder Advocacy.” As You Sow. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://www.asyousow.org/shareholder-advocacy-1.
  6. “Shareholder Advocacy.” As You Sow. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://www.asyousow.org/shareholder-advocacy-1.
  7. As You Sow. “Advance Auto Parts: Sustainability Reporting.” As You Sow. December 21, 2018. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://www.asyousow.org/resolutions/2018/12/20/advanced-auto-parts-sustainability-reporting.
  8. “Division of Corporation Finance 2019 No-Action Letters Issued Under Exchange Act Rule 14a-8.” Division of Corporation Finance No-Action Letters Issued Under Exchange Act Rule 14a-8; 2019. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://www.sec.gov/divisions/corpfin/cf-noaction/2019_14a-8.shtml.

    See: Advance Auto Parts.

  9. As You Sow. “Advance Auto Parts: Sustainability Reporting.” As You Sow. December 21, 2018. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://www.asyousow.org/resolutions/2018/12/20/advanced-auto-parts-sustainability-reporting.
  10. As You Sow. “AIG: Climate Change Scenario Analysis.” As You Sow. December 22, 2018. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://www.asyousow.org/resolutions/2018/12/21/Climate Change Scenario Analysis?rq=aig.
  11. As You Sow. “AIG: Climate Change Scenario Analysis.” As You Sow. December 22, 2018. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://www.asyousow.org/resolutions/2018/12/21/Climate Change Scenario Analysis?rq=aig.
  12. “American International Group, Inc.” Downloads. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://annual.aig.com/2018/downloads.

    See: 2019 Proxy Statement.

  13. “Resolutions.” As You Sow. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://www.asyousow.org/resolutions-tracker.
  14. As You Sow. “Chevron Corporation: Paris Aligned Business Plan.” As You Sow. December 18, 2018. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://www.asyousow.org/resolutions/2018/12/18/chevron-corporation-paris-aligned-business-plan.
  15. As You Sow. “Chevron Corporation: Report on Plastic Pellet Spills and Cleanup Actions.” As You Sow. December 18, 2018. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://www.asyousow.org/resolutions/2018/12/18/chevron-corporation-plastic-pellet-spills.
  16. “Resolutions.” As You Sow. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://www.asyousow.org/resolutions-tracker.
  17. “Current Resolutions.” As You Sow. Accessed April 26, 2023. Available at: https://www.asyousow.org/resolutions-tracker
  18. “Proxy Preview.” Official website homepage. Accessed February 18, 2022. Available at: https://www.proxypreview.org/
  19. “Proxy Preview 2022.” As You Sow. Available at: https://www.politico.com/f/?id=0000017f-8ff5-d137-abff-eff592a20000
  20. Robert Stilson. “Shareholder Activism: Woke Capitalism From the Inside.” The American Conservative. April 19, 2021. Available at: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/shareholder-activism-woke-capitalism-from-the-inside/
  21. “Proxy Preview 2021.” As You Sow. Available at: https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000178-a24a-d59d-a7f9-bb6fce370000
  22. Robert Stilson. “Shareholder Activism: Woke Capitalism From the Inside.” The American Conservative. April 19, 2021. Available at: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/shareholder-activism-woke-capitalism-from-the-inside/
  23. Robert Stilson. “Record Number of ESG Shareholder Resolutions in 2022.” Capital Research Center. April 11, 2022. Available at: https://capitalresearch.org/article/record-number-of-esg-shareholder-resolutions-in-2022/
  24. “Proxy Preview 2021.” As You Sow. Available at: https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000178-a24a-d59d-a7f9-bb6fce370000
  25. Robert Stilson. “Shareholder Activism: Woke Capitalism From the Inside.” The American Conservative. April 19, 2021. Available at: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/shareholder-activism-woke-capitalism-from-the-inside/
  26. Robert Stilson. “Record Number of ESG Shareholder Resolutions in 2022.” Capital Research Center. April 11, 2022. Available at: https://capitalresearch.org/article/record-number-of-esg-shareholder-resolutions-in-2022/
  27. “Proxy Preview 2022.” As You Sow. Available at: https://www.politico.com/f/?id=0000017f-8ff5-d137-abff-eff592a20000
  28. Robert Stilson. “The Proxy Preview: ESG in 2023.” Capital Research Center. April 7, 2023. Available at: https://capitalresearch.org/article/the-proxy-preview-esg-in-2023/
  29. Center, The National. “Free Enterprise Project Blocks Leftist Efforts to Defund Pro-Business Associations.” The National Center. May 21, 2019. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://nationalcenter.org/ncppr/2019/05/06/free-enterprise-project-blocks-leftist-efforts-to-defund-pro-business-associations/.
  30. Center, The National. “Free Enterprise Project Blocks Leftist Efforts to Defund Pro-Business Associations.” The National Center. May 21, 2019. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://nationalcenter.org/ncppr/2019/05/06/free-enterprise-project-blocks-leftist-efforts-to-defund-pro-business-associations/
  31. 2017. Pdfs.Citizenaudit.Org. Accessed August 4 2017. http://pdfs.citizenaudit.org/2015_09_EO/94-3169008_990_201412.pdf.
  32. Saletan, William 2015. “The Misleading War On Gmos: The Food Is Safe. The Rhetoric Is Dangerous.”. Slate Magazine. Accessed August 4 2017. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/07/are_gmos_safe_yes_the_case_against_them_is_full_of_fraud_lies_and_errors.html
  33. 2017. Pdfs.Citizenaudit.Org. Accessed August 4, 2017. http://pdfs.citizenaudit.org/2015_09_EO/94-3169008_990_201412.pdf.[/note] In the past, the RSF Community Fund Inc. and Humanity United have also donated money. 33LLC, CitizenAudit.org. 2017. ” Citizenaudit.Org – AS YOU SOW “. Citizenaudit.Org. Accessed August 4, 2017. https://www.citizenaudit.org/organization/943169008/AS%20YOU%20SOW/.
  34. LLC, CitizenAudit.org. 2017. ” Citizenaudit.Org – AS YOU SOW “. Citizenaudit.Org. Accessed August 4 2017. https://www.citizenaudit.org/organization/943169008/AS%20YOU%20SOW/.
  35. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). As You Sow. 2020. Part I.
  36. “Awarded Grants.” Open Society Foundations. Accessed April 26, 2023. Available at: https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/grants/past?filter_keyword=as+you+sow&grant_id=OR2020-75836
  37. Robert Stilson. “The Proxy Preview: ESG in 2023.” Capital Research Center. April 7, 2023. Available at: https://capitalresearch.org/article/the-proxy-preview-esg-in-2023/
  38. “Staff.” As You Sow. Accessed April 26, 2023. Available at: https://www.asyousow.org/about-us/staff
  39. “Board of Directors.” As You Sow. Accessed April 26, 2023. Available at: https://www.asyousow.org/about-us/staff/board-of-directors

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Andrew Behar
    Chief Executive Officer

Child Organizations

  1. As You Know (For-profit)
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: February 1, 1993

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Dec Form 990 $12,704,370 $6,468,534 $9,355,170 $579,334 N $12,503,538 $188,500 $10,068 $657,966
    2019 Dec Form 990 $3,914,924 $3,909,616 $2,672,358 $280,256 N $2,874,440 $948,999 $9,298 $578,998 PDF
    2018 Dec Form 990 $4,902,818 $4,282,815 $2,688,990 $257,767 N $2,980,747 $1,916,282 $6,968 $556,179 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $3,414,549 $3,355,158 $1,995,866 $187,879 N $3,306,721 $105,960 $1,868 $368,535
    2016 Dec Form 990 $3,378,610 $3,436,706 $1,882,098 $133,379 N $2,996,038 $379,691 $2,881 $281,301 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990 $3,681,083 $2,747,327 $1,909,496 $104,596 N $3,153,112 $525,419 $2,552 $233,298 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $2,259,517 $2,101,080 $1,036,317 $166,046 N $1,735,325 $522,231 $1,961 $238,658 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $1,705,427 $1,684,039 $884,987 $170,644 N $1,387,927 $317,400 $100 $229,721 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $1,450,474 $1,954,583 $801,326 $108,371 N $1,035,725 $405,640 $2,430 $124,800 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $1,872,925 $1,667,322 $1,294,594 $97,530 N $1,745,052 $127,083 $2,987 $203,192 PDF
    2010 Dec Form 990 $1,277,112 $1,830,826 $1,134,739 $143,278 N $1,058,753 $213,045 $2,900 $149,420 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    As You Sow

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    OAKLAND, CA 94612-2102