Sealaska Survey Results: Prioritizing Shareholder Voices

At the end of 2018, Sealaska commissioned an online survey for all shareholders to participate. Thank you to everyone who participated! This study is part of an ongoing effort Sealaska has undertaken since 1981 to ask shareholders their opinions. 2,702 Sealaska shareholders opted to participate, with demographics similar to Sealaska’s overall shareholder base. The surveys were conducted by DHM, an independent, nonpartisan third party.

Overall Feelings toward Sealaska

Question: How would you describe your overall feelings toward Sealaska: very negative, somewhat negative, neutral, somewhat positive or very positive?

Overall positive feelings jumped 10 points from 2014 (70% vs. 60%) and “very positive” ratings jumped 6 points from 2008 (41% vs. 35%).

Overall Support for Sealaska’s Business Vision

Question: Sealaska is choosing to invest in businesses that enhance the health and productivity of the ocean and water environments and use its natural resources in a sustainable way to benefit Sealaska shareholders. These businesses include management of forested lands (e.g., setting aside timberland for carbon offset credits), environmental consulting, and seafood investments. How supportive are you of Sealaska’s business vision?

Nearly all shareholders are supportive to some extent of Sealaska’s business vision. Overall support is higher than 90% across all demographic subgroups.

Shareholder Priorities

Question: With your comments providing guidance, Sealaska is now in a position to invest in expanded programs and services. How important are the following to you? (not at all important, slightly important, important, fairly important, or very important//each with text box for volunteered comments) How important are the following to you? These responses are “most important.”

All Sealaska programs and services are viewed as very important by all shareholders, with education getting top marks.

On Education—
“It’s important for our people to be educated and find careers that make a difference.”
–Shareholder, 25-34 years old, Alaska (outside of Southeast)

On Language preservation—
We cannot let this become a thing of the past. It is important to preserve our Native languages.”
–Shareholder, 55-64 years old, Outside of AK and WA

On Youth Programs—
“Encouraging our youth to be proud of their heritage and teaching them our language and culture is extremely important.
–Shareholder, 45-54 years old, Southeast Alaska

On dividends—
“So many of our people have little or no income so I feel it is a big boost to them.”
–Shareholder, 65-75 years old, Washington State

On burial benefit program—
“People do not always think of this as a priority until it happens and are not ready and financially prepared to bury a loved one.”
–Shareholder, 45-54 years old, Southeast Alaska

What was your initial reaction/impression?
First, I am grateful to everyone who took the time to participate. We know we have an active shareholder base and appreciate all of your input and engagement. Across the board, we see a big emphasis on the future, especially with a desire to support youth leadership and education.

Why commission the surveys?
Surveys are a great way to engage with more shareholders at one time. Since 1981, we’ve been reaching out to shareholders to get a sense of priorities and feelings about Sealaska. It gives us great insight into what you care about, and allows us to put shareholder voices front and center in all that we do. The surveys are just one way we connect with everyone, but it’s important feedback because we track it over time and it’s carried out by an independent third-party.

What are some of the takeaways?
Right now, 70 percent feel positively about Sealaska and that’s an increase from 60 percent in 2014. Plus, 25 percent said that they are more positive about Sealaska in just the last year. Additionally, 94 percent are supportive of the business vision so that gives me incredible hope that we are on the right path. It’s a sign that operating in meaningful businesses is in fact the key to our current success.

What surprised you?
Even though shareholders are supportive of our business vision, only four in ten said they know what kind of business Sealaska is in. At the same time, Shareholders who said they felt more positive about Sealaska when compared to a year ago cited communications as the top reason.
So, while we know that we are reaching our shareholders, we also have an opportunity to tell the story of how we are working toward healthier oceans and environmental stewardship. Whether through our carbon offset project, or our latest partnership in groundwater cleanup, we are tackling problems facing the environment holistically, and benefitting our people and the planet.

How will you use this data?
The results of the survey help us prioritize shareholder voices in all that we do, and inform how we steer the company moving forward. You can see that shareholders prioritized a lot of the benefits and programs we are committed to, like education, youth leadership development, burial benefits, and dividends. Sealaska recently set aside nearly $6 million to establish the Deishú Memorial Fund. Almost 150 shareholders have used this benefit since the process started last summer.

What can shareholders expect moving forward?
With our current financial success we are in a position to address the needs and priorities that our shareholders care about most. As an example we’ve increased the scholarship endowment to $15 million, and dividends are increasing as well. On the youth development front, we just partnered with like-minded organizations in Juneau to offer a leadership and basketball camp called “We Belong Here” during Gold Medal in March. Our director of Youth and Community Development, Damen Bell-Holter is out in Juneau and in our villages—look for more information soon.

As much as I appreciate gathering data from a wide group of shareholders, I also look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in person at the community meetings and annual meeting. 

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