Shareholders are legally entitled to a vote, and a voice. And shareholder resolutions are a way to require companies to adopt new policies and practices. Yet only 12% of individuals vote their shares. In this guest blog, Alex Thaler explains why he co-founded the new iconik app to make it easier for people to vote their shares and make a difference.

Updated January 24, 2024 with a new, easy way for voting your shares (see Method 1).

Corporations have become adept at closing doors and covering their metaphorical ears. Wells Fargo and Bank of America locked out ThirdAct supporters and customers on the 3.21.23 Day of Action rather than accept their letters objecting to fossil fuel financing.

After decades of stalling, gaslighting, and locked doors, we’re taking a different tack: empowering a growing movement of people using their shareholder rights to vote to require companies to change via shareholder resolutions on corporate policies.

Shareholders are legally entitled to a vote, and a voice. And what can be an unwelcome intrusion for management has proven to be a growing solution for activists. In the last few years, we’ve seen unprecedented activism in the form of environmental, social and governance proposals, and the reshuffling of board members. If you own the company, it’s harder to lock you out.

So far in 2023, 542 shareholder resolutions have been filed; 217 related to climate; 93 on corporate political influence; 23 related to reproductive health; 38 on diversity programs, and six about racism in the workplace. There are 42 anti-ESG proposals.

But it’s not as simple as putting a good idea on the ballot. Citibank, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America invested $119 billion in fossil fuels just last year alone. Shareholders tried to put a stop to this. On April 25, 2023 shareholders voted on several proposals that would have required Citibank to phaseout lending for new fossil fuel projects. Even with the existential anxiety we all feel with one more catastrophic weather event, a preliminary count of the votes shows that only about 10% of Citi investors supported the proposal. Resolutions at Wells Fargo and Bank of America for a “climate transition plan” for how to reach “net zero emissions by 2050” earned 31% and 28.5%, respectively, against the boards’ recommendations (significant shareholder dissent is generally regarded as at least 20% of shares voted against bank management recommendation); however, the stronger climate resolution at Bank of America calling for a phaseout of fossil fuel expansion projects earned only 7% of shareholder support.

The problem is most individual shareholders don’t vote.

The Shareholder Proxy Voting System is Broken

Problematically, 88% of individual investors don’t vote their shares. Until now corporations have relied on what they’ve called “investor apathy” to explain away a system in which management and institutions wield a disproportionate amount of power. But apathy isn’t the problem; it’s a voting system that is too difficult for most people to participate in.

If you own shares of publicly-traded companies, you may have received shareholder election notices in the mail. You’ve been asked to vote on directors without knowing whether they are going to rubber stamp management’s strategies or advocate for policies more in line with your values. You’ve been given yes/no options on shareholder proposals with minimal explanation and zero context. If you own a diversified portfolio, as most people do, the volume of shareholder information is overwhelming. Although it’s possible to spend the hundreds of hours doing the research and voting proxies, understandably most people don’t do it.

Financial advisors typically assume authority to vote their clients’ shares. But the vast majority of advisors either send these ballots to a proxy advisor such as Institutional Shareholder Services, or simply don’t vote them. Proxy advisors routinely vote against environmental, social, and governance issues. This is happening in the dark, unbeknownst to most investors. The end result is that if you have a financial advisor and are not receiving your shareholder ballots, those shares are likely being voted against your values.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Investors: Vote Your Values in Minutes

That’s why Third Act is partnering with iconik, the technology company that built the first personalized, automated proxy voting platform available to investors of all sizes across all brokerage firms. We’ve transformed the shareholder voting process for the convenience of the investor —what once took hours now happens in minutes—as featured in the Business Insider, MarketWatch, Morningstar, University of Pennsylvania Law School, and elsewhere. 

This approach is a little different than other campaign-oriented approaches. The Third Act voting profile is like an umbrella covering every company you own, helping to ensure that your shareholder voting rights are exercised in a manner consistent with your goals, values, and preferences.

You don’t need to be a digital native to use iconik’s secure platform. It’s simple, and it starts with what matters most to you – your values. If you sign up for iconik through ThirdAct, the service is free, and automatically votes your shares to match Third Act’s voting profile.

Third Act’s voting profile supports key initiatives:

  • Climate Finance
  • Indigenous Rights
  • Primary Forests
  • Oil and Gas
  • Political Activity

How to Participate: Method 1

If you receive shareholder ballots by email, you can have them automatically voted to match the Third Act voting profile by forwarding them to:

Using this method, you do not need to first create an iconik account. However, if you would like to be able to add or adjust voting rules, view impact reporting, and exercise more control over your profile, consider Method 2 below.

How to Participate: Method 2

Creating an iconik account allows you to automatically vote your shares to match the Third Act voting profile while giving you full control over the process. It’s free, only takes a few minutes to set up, and we have videos, like the one below, to guide you through the process. The platform is built to be open and transparent, allowing you to adjust automatically-generated votes, if desired. As election results are recorded, iconik will generate a personal impact report, so that you can monitor your impact on the issues that matter to you.

To get started, visit Third Act’s page on iconik:


If you’d like to further personalize your voting profile, and delve into other issuessuch as animal rights, diversity and equity, executive pay, and many othersyou can set up a personalized iconik account for $5.00 a month.

Shareholders Can Make Real Impacts

This is a moment to be a part of real change. It’s not just one more Tweet, but a way to harness our collective power as shareholders to create the future we desire. Third Act is helping to lead the way, forging an alternative capitalism that prioritizes people and the planet over a strict focus on profits. If you own even a single stock, you can join! It’s simple, it’s easy, and it’s empowering.

If you own even a single stock, you can join! Get started on voting your shareholder values today.


About the author:

Alex Thaler head shot

Alex D. Thaler, Co-Founder & CEO of iconik.

Alex is a startup founder, software engineer, and former corporate attorney. Prior to founding iconik, Alex served as Head of Security, Privacy, and Compliance at AnyRoad, an Andreessen Horowitz-backed startup redefining data-driven insights in the experience economy. Alex received a BA from UC Berkeley and a JD from University of Pennsylvania Law School, and has been named as one of Inicio Ventures’ rising Latinx founders to watch.