Clarcor board fights sustainability reporting push

Boston investment firm says tracking efforts would 'more readily identify issues affecting the overall business'

The board of directors of Clarcor is calling on shareholders to vote against a proposal that would have the filtration and packaging company document its sustainability programs.

Boston-based investment firm Walden Asset Management, which focuses on socially responsible investing and owns about $7.5 million worth of Clarcor shares, has filled a resolution calling on the Franklin-based company to produce a report detailing its "environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets and goals." Walden's proposal is on the agenda for Clarcor's annual shareholders' meeting March 25 in Naples, Fla.

Walden managers say their proposal — read it in full here by searching for "No. 4" — would put Clarcor in line with several of its peers and other large industrial companies that have adopted disclosure practices that go beyond the legal minimum.

"Occupational safety and health, vendor and labor standards, waste and water reduction targets and product related environmental impacts are particularly important ESG considerations in CLARCOR’s sector and may have the potential to pose significant regulatory, legal, reputational and financial risks," the resolution reads. "Given CLARCOR’s decentralized business we believe tracking corporate-wide ESG performance and publishing a standalone sustainability report could help CLARCOR more readily identify issues affecting the overall business."

Clarcor's directors say investors should deny Walden's push, adding that preparing a wide-ranging report "would involve significant expense and distraction" without adequately benefiting shareholders or management. The company, they say, already pays close attention to sustainability at its business units and has been recognized for its work in several areas.

"Although we disagree with the specific proposal at issue, we agree that ESG related matters are an important and worthwhile area of focus for the Company. In resisting the proposal, we are merely resisting the requirement to comprehensively gather data and publish an ESG report that we do not believe offers the Company or its investors meaningful benefits. This should not be interpreted as the Board of Directors or the Company not caring about ESG topics or not implementing ESG related practices, procedures or policies. To the contrary, our 100 year history of environmental concern and compliance clearly demonstrates that we do. We would simply rather devote ourselves to improving our company and its role in our communities than to reporting on such improvements."

Shares of Clarcor (Ticker: CLC) closed Tuesday trading at $56.67. They are down about 6 percent over the past three months.