Shareholder proposals at public companies are increasingly weighted toward social and environmental concerns, according to a new report by Ernst & Young.

They made up the largest proportion of shareholder resolutions last year. According to the report, the number of corporate social responsibility-related shareholder proposals that came to a vote rose from 150 in 2000 to 191 in 2010, and those proposals garnered average voting support of 18.4 percent of the votes cast in 2010 vs. just 7.5 percent a decade earlier. 

The percentage of social and environmental shareholder resolutions that garnered at least 30 percent shareholder support, a critical threshold for many corporate board members, rose from just 2.6 percent in 2005 to 26.8 percent in 2010.

Driven by concerns about the financial and reputational risks associated with climate change and sustainability, institutional investors are increasing the number of environmental and socially focused shareholder proposals and making them more specific. A growing number of these proposals are linking social and environmental matters to traditional governance issues, such as compensation and the qualifications of board members.

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