Shareholder activism played an important role in defeating South Africa’s past challenges, and continues to do so in overcoming present and future ones, such as unemployment, stagnant economic growth, climate change, the just transition and the all-too-familiar ethical and governance lapses in boardrooms.

Among the earliest global examples of shareholder rights driving positive societal change was the activism of the Episcopal Church, a shareholder in General Motors (GM). In February 1971 the church wrote a letter to the GM chair urging the company’s exit from South Africa on ethical and financial grounds. The church argued that apartheid was deeply unjust and would also result in the destruction of foreign capital...

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