While it’s too early to determine the size of the boycotts or the impact on quarterly sales, some investors in both corporations are not waiting for those data to emerge: They are demanding that the giant big-box retailers revamp their political-donation guidelines.
According to the Los Angeles Times — which receives substantial ad revenue from the merchants:
“Imprudent donations can potentially have a major negative impact on company reputations and business if they don’t carefully and fully assess a candidate’s positions,” said Tim Smith, a senior vice president at Walden Asset Management, one of three asset management firms that this week filed a resolution asking the retail giant to overhaul its campaign donation policies. He cautioned that funding ballot initiatives, as many corporations have done, “can similarly backfire.”
The three management firms sponsoring the resolution — Calvert Asset Management, Trillium Asset Management and Walden — together hold $57.5 million of Target stock. Other institutional investors, including the giant New York State pension fund and union investment managers, are considering co-signing the resolution, which calls on Target’s independent directors to review the criteria and risks in making donations to organizations active in political campaigns.
According to the Times, the New York State pension fund holds 3.8 million shares in Target alone, with a market value of $283 million.
Neither retailer cares — yet — about the customers whose lives will be negatively impacted if Minnesota candidate Tom Emmer wins the governor’s seat and continues his habit of recklessly aiding hate groups and the lawmakers (such as Michele Bachmann) who use these groups as their base of support.
Efforts to pressure Target and Best Buy must not be limited to discouraging shoppers from entering stores; efforts must also publicize the importance of this resolution to shareholders and their bank accounts.
In the end, return on investment may be the only thing that most large retailers — and the executives that operate them — care about.