A Conversation with Mary Beth Gallagher, Director of Engagement
Excerpted from our 2022 Impact Report
Domini talks a lot about engagement. How do you define it?
Engagement is a catchall term for the outreach and communication we do to influence companies’ practices. Day to day, this looks like emails, letters, and phone calls with executives.
Research is an important building block for this work. Our analysts look closely at companies’ sustainability reports and plans to gauge what they say they’re doing. That research guides our engagements, which take it a step further. When we engage with a company, we aim to understand whether its policy commitments are working in practice, and what tools are used to measure that its work is effective. We do a fair amount of engagement on our own, but we also collaborate with other investors if we align on common goals. When there is a policy or regulatory change that can help improve company practices or advance an issue on a system level, we’ll write a letter to policy makers, submit a public comment, or join a statement.
“Over time, we build trust and establish relationships with companies, and this helps us build mutual understanding and advance conversations.”
What makes engagement effective? How are companies responding to calls for improvement?
Progress can be slow when addressing society’s most intractable challenges, but we’re seeing momentum in our conversations and within companies. A big part of this comes down to who is at the table. We’ve noted that more companies are hiring a Chief Sustainability Officer or Climate Risk Officer. The quality of our conversations further improves when they bring people in other relevant roles to our meetings. This includes people like Chief Procurement Officers, Credit Risk Officers, and Global Human Rights leads.
There are other signs of positive change. Companies are consulting more frequently with rightsholders and experts. Their willingness to meet with groups who have concerns—and learn directly from them about what kind of change is warranted—shows an openness and humility that can lead to stronger business practices. Companies are also getting better at telling their own stories, providing more detailed information in sustainability reports and other publications. Over time, we build trust and establish relationships with companies, and this helps us build mutual understanding and advance conversations. There is still more work to be done. Our engagement will continue to focus on evaluating more concrete impacts on the ground.
Mary Beth Gallagher, our Director of Engagement, explains how Domini engages with companies on key issues
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