The Home Depot – Shareholders question corporate dollars supporting abortion restrictions
“In the fairly likely event that Roe vs. Wade gets severely weakened or overturned and states move quickly to ban abortion, companies could find themselves in the position where the general public is looking to them and saying, ‘Why did you fund the champions of the anti-choice movement?’” Shelley Alpern, director of corporate engagement at Rhia Ventures, a social impact fund that invests in women’s reproductive health ventures, said in an interview. “It seems like it absolutely can easily turn into an incredible challenge for companies and their employees pretty much overnight.”
Corporations seek to influence government policy by injecting money into U.S. elections through political action committees and trade associations. Many say they focus spending on candidates and groups that support their business objectives on both sides of the aisle. With the rise of environmental, social and governance factors, investors are calling out companies over what they see as conflicting messaging in political spending.
At companies with comprehensive reproductive health benefits for employees, it could be seen as inconsistent to spend on campaigns that support policies or politicians that would put access to certain care at risk, Alpern said. If states in which they operate restrict abortion access, that could also threaten a company’s ability to attract and retain women, she said. Reputation risk is also a focus of shareholders.
Public companies should stop spending on politics entirely or infuse their criteria for donations with ESG values, Alpern said. She’s hoping that fellow investors will expect more consistency from companies than restricting funding from lawmakers that voted to overturn 2020 election results, which she said would be a “low bar.”
“It doesn’t solve the bigger problem they have of championing environmental and social justice for their employees or other areas of public policy and then completely undermining those initiatives through their political giving,” Alpern said. “We’re really just asking for a more consistent and coherent and responsible political spending criteria, rather than the current situation where the left hand is constantly contradicting what the right hand is doing.”