Paying Our Way

Colette Murphy is the Executive Director of the Atkinson Foundation.

Twenty years of shareholder research and education. Twenty years of building an organization known worldwide as SHARE, an acronym that communicates a timeless and urgent mission with uncommon simplicity. Twenty years of doing one’s duty — demonstrating what prudence, loyalty and care look like when investing in a sustainable, inclusive and productive economy.

That’s what Jenn Miller and I were celebrating last night in a packed room of investors and active owners from across Canada. This moment of gratitude came after intense discussions at the SHARE Investor Summit. Complex social, economic and environmental issues, and our role in solving — or perpetuating — them, had been our focus.

The Atkinson Foundation is one of SHARE’s proud partners. We’ve been inspired by the principled leadership of its founders, board and staff members since the beginning. In 2002, we contributed $6,000 to support SHARE and the Columbia Institute to develop a model set of proxy voting guidelines. (You can find the 2020 version of these essential guidelines here.)

Before long, then-Executive Director Peter Chapman and his staff were helping us align our investment policy with our mission. At the time, we had all of our Canadian equities in a pooled fund, which meant that we couldn’t engage in shareholder activism. So we segregated the funds and began participating in SHARE’s core engagement program.

Institutional investors like Atkinson were only beginning to realize their collective power to shape capital markets (as they are far more likely to vote their shares than individual shareholders.) In 2007, we started taking advantage of SHARE’s custom engagement services — first to encourage responsible contracting and procurement policies in the area of property services. More recently, we’ve collaborated on two custom projects: the Valuing Decent Work project and the Reconciliation and Responsible Investment Initiative.

We consider ourselves among the many beneficiaries of SHARE’s work on climate risk, human rights, water, corporate governance and more. The talented team, led by Kevin Thomas now, quietly and effectively turns exploitative and extractive narratives toward the real possibility of a fair and sustainable global economy.

For this and so much more, we want to thank them — for their good and decent work. For all the ways they help the rest of us do our best work. For getting us into the right kind of fights. For keeping us prudent, loyal and careful but mostly hopeful when we take stock of the world’s challenges.

Author Rebecca Solnit says, “Cynicism is a cool, black leather jacket that everyone thinks they look good in. Hope, on the other hand, is a frilly, pink dress that no one dares to wear.” 

What I love about the SHARE crew and their friends is that we wear our hope differently. We work hard by day, dressed for success. By night, you can count on us to join the crowd at a neighbourhood pub with the music of a rock band like the Dropkick Murphys in the air. 

Happy Birthday, SHARE. Thanks for showing us how to pay our way, and for keeping the people who are just trying to pay their way each day so close to your heart.

Photo: From right to left, SHARE’s Executive Director Kevin Thomas, Chief Strategy Officer Shannon Rohan, Atkinson’s Colette Murphy, and founding Executive Director of SHARE Peter Chapman.