Two Shareholder Resolutions Call on Rayonier to Improve Governance and Disclose Environmental Impacts on the Altamaha River
Investor Voice, a social purpose corporation that monitors and analyzes the financial and social implications of the policies and practices of companies, has sponsored two resolutions on behalf of shareholders of Rayonier, Inc. (“Rayonier”) for consideration and action at the annual meeting in May.
The first resolution calls upon the Board of Directors to provide a report to shareholders on how Rayonier manages risks and costs related to effluent discharge at its Jesup, Georgia specialty fiber mill, including the long-term environmental damage to the Altamaha River and the viability of using existing technologies to improve the discharge quality.
The second resolution would separate the chairmanship of the Board of Directors from the CEO position in the company.
The corporation vigorously fought against the resolutions being included in the shareholders proxy statement, arguing that, “Rayonier’s decisions regarding the environmental impact and risks of its production process and the manner of managing such risks...are far too complex for direct shareholder oversight.” However, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week ruled in favor of the shareholders, turning down a Rayonier request to omit the proposals from its proxy.
Bruce Herbert, Chief Executive of Investor Voice, applauds the SEC’s decision. “Shareholders are becoming increasingly aware that how a company addresses environmental issues, in particular, is a proxy for its foresightedness and effectiveness over the long-term. These resolutions allow owners to express concerns about how the company is being governed and its environmental impact. If adopted, these would both be meaningful steps towards enhancing Rayonier’s value and reputation.”
The Altamaha Riverkeeper (ARK) CEO/Riverkeeper Brian Lucy states, “We are encouraged that the SEC agrees that environmental management is a significant issue for shareholders to consider. It is our hope that this resolution will raise awareness about the possible long-term liabilities of cleaning up Rayonier’s effluent discharge into the river.”
Rayonier is based in Jacksonville, Florida. Its 10-member board is chaired by its CEO and President, Paul Boynton, and includes former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, among its directors . According to Rayonier’s 2013 Form 10-K, the company derived $359 million of its operating income from its performance fibers operations based in Jesup, Georgia. Most competitors to Rayonier’s Jesup mill have either installed, or are in the process of installing, Activated Sludge Treatment (AST) processes. Independent experts agree that AST and other pulp mill systems can reduce pollutants and color to approximately half the concentration of the archaic Aerated Stabilization Basin system currently in place at the Jesup plant.
Both measures will be included in the proxy statements to be sent to Rayonier shareholders and voted on at its annual meeting in Jacksonville, Florida in May. The members of the Board of Directors, including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, are expected to attend the meeting.
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Reprinted with permission from Southeast Green.