Corporate Sustainability and Shareholder Activism in the Netherlands

In Beate Sjåfjell and Christopher M. Bruner (eds), Cambridge Handbook of Corporate Law, Corporate Governance and Sustainability (Cambridge University Press,2019), Chapter 19.

University of Oslo Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2019-24

Posted: 8 May 2019 Last revised: 15 Jun 2020

See all articles by Anne Lafarre

Anne Lafarre

Tilburg Law School, Business Law Department; Tilburg Law School

Christoph Van der Elst

Tilburg Law School; Ghent University - Department of Business Law; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Date Written: May 6, 2019

Abstract

The involvement of companies is key for a sustainable society, but it is debated whether shareholders can stimulate the achievement of corporate sustainability goals. We investigate shareholder sustainability engagement in the Netherlands. First, we present the Dutch corporate law framework in a sustainability context. Dutch corporate law can generally be considered stakeholder-oriented. Afterwards, we present a novel empirical analysis of shareholder corporate sustainability engagement in the Netherlands using Dutch annual general meeting transcripts. We find that, although shareholders do not make use of their right to add proposals to the agenda to advocate corporate sustainability, shareholders do in fact use their right to ask questions. Our findings provide new indications that, in addition to the pivotal role of corporate boards, shareholders may be increasingly willing to play a positive role in corporate sustainability.

Keywords: AGM, shareholder activism, stakeholder model

Suggested Citation

Lafarre, Anne and Van der Elst, Christoph, Corporate Sustainability and Shareholder Activism in the Netherlands (May 6, 2019). In Beate Sjåfjell and Christopher M. Bruner (eds), Cambridge Handbook of Corporate Law, Corporate Governance and Sustainability (Cambridge University Press,2019), Chapter 19., University of Oslo Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2019-24, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3383451

Anne Lafarre (Contact Author)

Tilburg Law School, Business Law Department ( email )

Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

Tilburg Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, DC Noord-Brabant 5000 LE
Netherlands

Christoph Van der Elst

Tilburg Law School ( email )

Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

Ghent University - Department of Business Law ( email )

Universiteitstraat 4
Gent, B-9000
Belgium

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
Rue Ducale 1 Hertogsstraat
1000 Brussels
Belgium

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