FFC joins Climate Declaration
June 12, 2013
Friends Fiduciary, by signing on to the Climate Declaration by Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Police (BICEP), urges federal policymakers to establish a national climate change strategy. BICEP released the press release declaration today which asserts that America’s leadership in “choosing clean energy, inventing new technologies that other countries will buy, and creating jobs here at home” is an important step towards overcoming climate challenges and taking advantage of a green economic opportunity.
To see the full press release, click here.
FFC supports non-disparagement of Native Americans.
June 7, 2013
Friends Fiduciary signs an investor letter to the House supporting the Non-Disparagement of Native American Person and Peoples in Trademark Registration Act of 2013. This act amends the Trademark Act of 1946 to conclusively presume that a mark that uses the term “redskin” or any derivation, as disparagement when used with references to or images of Native Americans. The act requires commercial registration marks containing the term to be canceled.
To view the full letter, click here.
FFC Advocates for Corporate Responsibility on Conflict Minerals
June 3, 2013
Friends Fiduciary joined with more than 50 sustainable, socially responsible, and faith-based investor groups representing over $450 billion in assets in an Investor Statement in support of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) Rule 1502 on Conflict Minerals. The SEC’s final rule for Conflict Mineral is part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. FFC also advocated for this ruling last year which mandates that corporations must determine the origin of “conflict minerals” used in their products. However, since that time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business group have filed a lawsuit against the SEC on the section of the act.
These minerals (tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold, etc.) are widely used in cell phones, laptops, and other electronic products. The purpose of the final rules is to assess whether materials originating from or near the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are benefiting armed rebel groups and thereby financing extreme levels of violence in the eastern DRC and contributing to the humanitarian crisis in the region. As values based investors, Friends Fiduciary believes that this is a step towards greater transparency and accountability in supply chain due diligence for U.S. companies on this important concern.
FFC Calls for Reform in Global Apparel Supply Chains
May 16, 2013
FFC has joined with other ICCR investors representing over $1 trillion in assets in urging industry leaders to implement systemic reforms to ensure worker safety and welfare. Further we are asking companies to adopt zero tolerance policies on global supply chain abuses. The recent calamities in Bangladesh apparel manufacturing factories underscore the critical need for reform. Current models incentivize lax regulations and oversight in order to readily supply North America and Europe with inexpensive goods. This can lead some factories to disregard fundamental human rights of workers, including health, safety, and right to collective bargaining. As investors we are asking retailers to implement the internationally recognized labor standards of the International Labor Organization. The ICCR press release was featured in a New York Times story today.
FFC Supports Efforts to Fight Human Trafficking
May 9, 2013
Friends Fiduciary worked with Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), a diverse alliance of U.S.-based human rights organizations, to request that members of the House and Senate support increased reporting on human trafficking and funding for family reunification with human trafficking survivors in the United States. Human trafficking and slavery has grown into a $30 billion a year illicit “industry” and increased reporting and monitoring of financial networks are necessary to reducing these destructive activities.
To read the full letters, click here and here.
Quaker Fundraisers Gathering
May 8, 2013
The 2013 Quaker Fundraisers Gathering will be September 29-30 at the Marriott at Penn Square in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For more information and the registration form, click here.
FFC Calls on Congress to Prioritize Immigration Legislation
May 2, 2013
Friends Fiduciary joined over 70 investors representing more than $890 billion in assets to call on members of Congress to make comprehensive immigration reform a priority, including providing opportunities for currently undocumented immigrants to earn legal status and citizenship in the United States. As the letter states, “Such legislation would be pro-growth and consistent with our country’s values and proud immigrant history.”
To read the full letter, click here.
FFC Op-ed Supports Ohio’s Renewable Energy Goals
April 18, 2013
An op-ed piece by Jeff Perkins, FFC Executive Director, supporting Ohio’s renewable energy standards was published in The Cincinnati Enquirer. Perkins says that current attempts to roll back renewable energy sourcing is short sighted noting that “clean energy is cost-effective, it’s helping Ohioans find jobs, and it’s benefitting businesses that are building their own renewable energy,” including a new solar installation by Campbell Soup Company. Perkins goes on to say that forward thinking energy policies that encourage businesses to develop and maintain sustainable operations can generate strong financial returns and build a better future.
To read the article, click here.
FFC Urges Stronger Disclosure by U.S. Water Utilities
April 8, 2013
Friends Fiduciary joined a dozen investors managing $40 billion in assets in requesting that the National Federation of Municipal Analysts (NFMA) subject water utilities to stronger disclosure requirements on issues like water supply scenario planning, climate change impacts and pricing strategies. This letter follows a recent Ceres report, Water Ripples, Expanding Risks for U.S. Water Providers, which outlines the various challenges and risks that water providers are facing, including failing infrastructure, growing environmental and water availability pressures, and declining revenues.
To read the full letter to NFMA, click here.
FFC Advocates for Renewable Portfolio Standards by Challenging Company Ties to ALEC
April 1, 2013
Due to efforts by the American Legislation Exchange Council (ALEC) to roll back Renewable Portfolio Standards, FFC is urging some companies we own to reconsider their affiliation with the group. ALEC continues to falsely claim that such renewable energy targets are costly to ratepayers. However, non-partisan research organizations have repeatedly published data showing that a state-level renewable energy standard has no significant impact on how much energy rates have changed. In our request FFC notes that ALEC’s efforts conflict with the values and public statements of these companies we hold. Therefore we are encouraging the companies to disassociate themselves from ALEC.
To read the full letter to Duke Energy, click here.
To read the full letter to Comcast Corporation, click here.
To read the full letter to Spectra Energy, click here.
To read the full letter to GlaxoSmithKline, click here.
FFC Supports Payday Lending Regulation
March 22, 2013
Friends Fiduciary urges federal regulators to review bank payday lending practices. Friends Fiduciary, with other socially responsible investors and concerned organizations, has signed onto a letter urging the Federal Reserve, FDIC, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Comptroller of the Currency to regulate payday lending practices. In the fall of 2012, FFC co-filed shareholder resolutions with Regions Financial and Wells Fargo on their payday lending practices and engaged in direct dialogues with these companies. We have partnered with The Center for Responsible Lending in this work.
To view the letter and signatories click here.
Webinar – Save the Date April 24, 2013
March 21, 2013
Join us on Wednesday, April 24 at 1:30 p.m. ET for a review of first quarter 2013 investment performance for the Consolidated Fund and the Short Term Investment Fund. Rich will also discuss recent changes to Consolidated Fund investments. Registration information will be forthcoming.
For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SRI E-Bulletin Released
March 20, 2013
Earlier this month, Friends Fiduciary released a brief synopsis of our recent SRI activities to keep our stakeholders better informed of our shareholder advocacy work. Friends Fiduciary has engaged in shareholder advocacy on several social and environmental issues this proxy season, including greenhouse gas emissions, payday lending, and wind production tax credit. We encourage you to share this information with the Peace and Social Concerns Committees in your monthly and yearly meetings.
Click here to view the SRI E-Bulletin.
If you would like to be added to the SRI E-Bulletin list, please email us at email@example.com.
FFC Joins Climate Crisis Panel
March 7, 2013
FFC Executive Director, Jeff Perkins, joined a panel discussion on climate crisis responses and strategies, sponsored by Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light and The Social Justice and Environment Committee of Summit Presbyterian Church. Other panelists included representatives from Swarthmore Mountain Justice, 350.org, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, and Earth Quaker Action Team. Jeff presented a snapshot of FFC’s shareholder advocacy and other SRI strategies. Corporate engagement is a key part of FFC’s strategy for socially responsible investing and a practical and important expression of Quaker values. As an investor, Jeff explains Friends Fiduciary has a place at the table to question and potentially influence the policies and practices of the companies in which FFC is invested.
The MP3 file of the panel discussion has been made available by Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light via their Facebook page here. For an agenda with time stamps for the audio, click here.
FFC Advocates for Change at PNC Bank
February 20, 2013
In our ongoing engagement with PNC Bank regarding their financing of coal companies doing mountain top removal mining, Friends Fiduciary recently co-filed a shareholder resolution.
Click here to see the resolution which seeks an assessment of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from their lending portfolio. As part of the process, companies can seek permission from the SEC to exclude resolutions from the proxy. PNC’s recent effort to seek such permission on our resolution was just rebuffed by the SEC. Click here for the press release from the lead filer, including a quote from FFC Executive Director, Jeff Perkins.
For L.A. Times article on this resolution click here.
FFC Files Resolutions with Oil & Gas Companies
February 14, 2013
Working with our partners in the Investor Network for Climate Risk and Ceres, Friends Fiduciary co-filed shareholder resolutions with leading oil and gas companies to disclose critical information about their environmental practices and policies. FFC joined the lead filers noted in the press release on resolutions with Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Spectra Energy.
Click here to view the full press release.
Friends Fiduciary Joins the Carbon Disclosure Project
January 11, 2013
As part of Friends Fiduciary’s work to further refine our environmental review of companies in our portfolio and to better assess potential additions to our portfolio, FFC has become an investor signatory to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). The CDP is a coalition of over 655 investors representing in excess of $78 trillion in assets encouraging thousands of companies around the globe to begin to disclose information on companies’ strategies for managing climate change and water risks. FFC will now be able to use the information gleaned by the CDP in our dialogs with companies with which we engage in shareholder advocacy. According to Jeff Perkins, FFC Executive Director, data about companies’ greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and strategies for managing climate change and water risks is invaluable and essential in successfully engaging companies to create change.
2012 Semi-annual Distribution
January 4, 2013
December semi-annual distributions were processed as scheduled in December. The June 2013 distribution has been set at $0.90 per unit which is a 4.5% payout ratio.
FFC Supports Wind Production Tax Credit
November 13, 2012
As part of its strategic policy work, Friends Fiduciary advocates for extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy. Federal support is critical at this juncture to bring wind energy, a clean, sustainable energy source, to scale. Early federal support of horizontal drilling led to the current shale gas boom. If a technology such as hydraulic fracturing, with its attendant environmental risks can receive early federal support, there should be no question of supporting a much cleaner technology and energy source. In addition to the Op-Ed, earlier this month, Friends Fiduciary joined a cross section of social investors, managing over $800 billion in assets, in supporting an immediate, multi-year extension of the PTC in a letter to the House and Senate.
Click here for the full article.
Webinar Recording – FFC’s Quaker Investing and 3rd Quarter Investment Review
November 1, 2012
If you were unable to join the recent live webinar on October 24, 2012 (FFC’s Quaker Investing and 3rd Quarter Investment Review), you have a second chance to see and hear it through a recording of the session. Click here to see and hear the presentation. This link will take you to the webinar host site and you simply click the Playback button. A new window will open which will play the audio in time with the power point slides as originally presented.
Friends Fiduciary Supports Production Tax Credit for Wind Energy
November 1, 2012
Friends Fiduciary joined a cross section of financial managers and advisers managing collectively over $800 billion in assets in supporting an immediate, multi-year extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy in a letter to the House and Senate. The wind power industry has been a bright spot for employment and has, despite the recession, created one of America’s fastest-growing manufacturing sectors. The PTC is also critical to driving the cost of wind towards parity with traditional energy generation resources.
In the past, whenever the PTC was allowed to expire, the wind industry experienced a striking series of boom-bust cycles. Such short-term and inconsistent policy makes investing in this sector more difficult. A multi-year extension of the PTC would support the most substantive growth and job creation in the US market today, as well as provide the market certainty needed for investment in this sector.
To see the letter in full, click here.
Friends Fiduciary Supports Immigration Reform
October 15, 2012
Friends Fiduciary joined over 30 investors representing $145 billion in urging the bipartisan leadership teams on the Senate and House Judiciary Committees addressing immigration policy to develop meaningful progress on comprehensive immigration reform. The group of investors believes immigration reform is an important human rights issue and a business imperative, issues that should rise above the political gridlock that currently obstructs the work of Congress in providing the opportunity for currently undocumented immigrants to earn a pathway to legal status in the United States.
Many industries depend on workers who are undocumented immigrants to operate their business. Over 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. Furthermore, the absence of comprehensive immigration reform has had devastating consequences for generations of immigrants in the U.S., the majority of whom came here in search for a better life. Friends Fiduciary believes the U.S. must continue to attract the best and brightest minds, as well as remain a beacon of hope for everyone around the world.
To read the full letter, click here.
Friends Fiduciary Corporation featured in Friends Journal
October 3, 2012
The October issue on the subject of money includes a number of provocative articles about Friends and finances. The FFC article, “Witnessing to Wall Street”, is about our socially responsible investing in a global economy.
Click here to view the articles.
Webinar – Save the Date October 24, 2012
October 1, 2012
Join Friends Fiduciary Executive Directior Jeff Perkins and Chief Investment Officer Richard Kent, CFA, on Wednesday, October 24 for a brief review of our faith-based investment approach and a review of third quarter 2012 investment performance for the Consolidated Fund.
For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finances Through the Lens of Spirit
September 26, 2012
Friends Fiduciary is teaming up with Stony Run Friends Meeting to present “Finances Through the Lens of Spirit: Inviting Open Conversations about Money in Friends Meetings and Organizations” on October 26 & 27, 2012. This seminar will consider how thoughtful and transparent financial management supports Friends’ testimonies and values in our meetings and churches.
Among the topics to be discussed are how to understand financial reports, reflecting Quaker values in managing money, and managing uneven cash flows and restricted funds. This program will address financial concerns of Friends groups of all sizes and levels of assets and financial expertise. For more information and a flyer click here.
Friends Fiduciary Supports SEC Rule on “Conflict Minerals”
September 14, 2012
Friends Fiduciary is part of a diverse coalition of faith-based and socially responsible investors supporting and advocating for the “Conflict Minerals” provision of the Dodd-Frank Act. The recent Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) final ruling mandates that corporations must determine the origin of “conflict minerals” used in their products. These minerals (which include tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold) are widely used in cell phones, laptops, and other electronic products.
The purpose of the final rules is to assess whether materials originating from or near the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are benefiting armed rebel groups and thereby financing extreme levels of violence in the eastern DRC and contributing to the humanitarian crisis in the region. As values based investors, Friends Fiduciary believes that this is a step towards greater transparency and accountability in supply chain due diligence for U.S. companies on this important concern.
To view the letter to the SEC click here.
Robert Fogal joins Friends Fiduciary as Gift Planning Associate
August 23, 2012
Robert “Bob” Fogal, CAP®, ACFRE, has joined Friends Fiduciary as Gift Planning Associate. In this new role Bob will manage and support our Planned Giving Services, working with development staff and donors to promote planned giving.
With over 30 years’ experience in fundraising and planned giving development, including positions with faith based organizations, Bob has conducted seminars and workshops on charitable giving across the country.
Friends Fiduciary Planned Giving Services supports over 70 Friends organizations in marketing, facilitating and administering more than 300 planned gifts, such as charitable gift annuities and trusts. This robust program also offers individual donors the opportunity to benefit multiple Quaker organizations with a single planned gift. All assets are invested consistent with Friends Fiduciary’s socially responsible investment guidelines.
To learn more about making a planned gift, to request a gift illustration or for information about FFC’s Planned Giving Services please contact Bob at 215-241-7272 ext. 103 or email@example.com .
Investment Performance Webinar Presentation Available
July 27, 2012
The July 26, 2012 webinar on Second Quarter 2012 Investment Performance by Friends Fiduciary Chief Investment Officer, Richard Kent, CFA, is now available.
Click here to access the presentation materials and notes.
July 26 Webinar on Second Quarter Performance
July 13, 2012
Join Friends Fiduciary Chief Investment Officer, Richard Kent, CFA, as he reviews second quarter performance and the economic outlook. The webinar is Thursday July 26, 2012 at 1:30 p.m.
Click here to access the online registration
Then click “Register” and complete the required fields of the online registration form, adding your meeting or organization name in the “Company” field. After you click “Submit” you will receive email confirmation with instructions and the password to join the webinar.
Webinar on Second Quarter Performance
June 29, 2012
Join Friends Fiduciary Chief Investment Officer, Richard Kent, CFA, as he reviews second quarter performance and the economic outlook. The webinar will be on Thursday July 26, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. Information on how to register for the webinar will be sent out next week.
Annual Investor Meeting Materials
June 6, 2012
Over fifty people attended the recent Annual Investor Meeting luncheon to learn about Friends Fiduciary’s recent accomplishments, investment performance and priorities for the coming year. Featured speaker, Yvette Klevan, from Lazard Asset Management briefed the attendees on the European debt crisis and its impact on the capital markets and the U.S. economy.
For the presentation from Lazard click here
Presentation by Richard Kent, FFC Chief Investment Officer click here
Investment Performance Webinar Presentation Available
April 26, 2012
The April 26, 2012 webinar on First Quarter 2012 Investment Performance by Friends Fiduciary Chief Investment Officer, Richard Kent, CFA, is available.
Click here to access the presentation materials. (The audio portion of this presentation is not currently available.)
Webinar on First Quarter Performance
April 19, 2012
Join Friends Fiduciary Chief Investment Officer, Richard Kent, CFA, as he reviews first quarter performance and the economic outlook. The webinar is Thursday April 26, 2012 and is offered at two different times for the convenience of our constituent investors.
For 11:00 a.m. (EDT) session click here to access the online registration
For 7:00 p.m. (EDT) session click here to access the online registration
Then click “Register” and complete the required fields of the online registration form, adding your meeting or organization name in the “Company” field. After you click “Submit” you will receive email confirmation with instructions and the password to join the webinar.
Announcing Short Term Investment Fund
April 2, 2012
Friends Fiduciary is now offering a Short Term Investment Fund. This diversified, fixed income fund provides a socially responsible investment option for constituents who want a competitive return with low volatility. It is designed for funds with a one to five year investment horizon.
Click here for more information on the Fund.
March 19, 2012
The Friends Fiduciary Board of Directors has approved a statement about our socially responsible investment practices. Friends Fiduciary seeks to reflect broadly shared Friends testimonies and values in our work and strives for fairness and integrity in our shareholder interactions with the companies in which we invest.
Click here to read the full statement (PDF download).
Announcing Online Access
December 19, 2011
Friends Fiduciary is very pleased to announce our new online account access! Simply click on the “Access Your Account” tab on the menu bar above, and follow the instructions. This great new feature allows you to see the daily market value of your account at your convenience.
Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause shares his response to the tragedy in AZ…
January 10, 2011
Dear Colleagues and Friends:
Here are some words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to reflect upon on this “day after” the violence in Arizona:
“When evil men (and women) plot,
good men (and women) plan.
When evil men (and women) burn and bomb,
good men (and women) must build and bind.
When evil men (and women) shout ugly words of hatred,
good men (and women) commit themselves to the glories of love.
Where evil men (and women) would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo,
good men (and women) MUST seek to bring into being a real order of Justice.”
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING
Let’s all hope that the coming days will renew our collective efforts to PLAN, BUILD and recommit ourselves to seeking “a REAL ORDER OF JUSTICE.”
President of Common Cause
Chilean Companies and Products Measure Their “Water Footprint”
October 15, 2010
Under pressure from the business sector, Chile is leading the way in measuring the impact on water resources in the production of everything from fruit to gold.
SANTIAGO, Oct 11 (Tierramérica).- How many liters of water are needed to produce one kilogram of table grapes? The effort to measure the “water footprint” of this and other products exported by Chile could provide some answers by year’s end.
The water footprint is the total volume of freshwater used in the production of goods and services. It can be calculated for a specific product, a company or an entire country. This footprint, say experts, is an indicator of potentials and limits.
“Perhaps the water footprint will not follow the same critical path as the carbon footprint, but it does call companies’ attention to rethinking their water resource management,” said Rodrigo Acevedo, head of agro-industry projects at the Chile Foundation, one of the entities measuring the footprint in this South American country.
It is a matter of “changing the paradigm,” Acevedo told Tierramérica. It will obligate companies to “go beyond the legal spheres,” like water use rights, and consider the effects of their consumption on the sustainability of the watersheds and of their own businesses.
Right now, the leading entity for defining the standards is the Water Footprint Network, a non-profit foundation based in the Netherlands. It has calculated the water footprint of a cup of coffee (140 liters) and a kilo of rice (3,000 liters).
But unlike the globalized notion of the carbon footprint, which measures the quantity of greenhouse-effect gases emitted into the atmosphere by individuals, products or companies, the consumption of water is difficult to report or compare because it entails complex processes with a eminently local impact.
Three “footprints” are considered in the calculation: the green, which accounts for the contribution of precipitation; the blue, which involves the surface or underground water sources; and the grey, which entails the contamination generated in the production process.
Among the Chilean partners of the Water Footprint Network are the Chile Foundation, the public University of Chile, the Green Solutions consultancy, and the wine producer Concha y Toro, De Martino, and Errázuriz.
The Chile Foundation was created by the U.S. ITT Corporation (dedicated to water and sanitation, weapons, satellite technology and transportation), the Chilean government, and the copper company Minera Escondida, owned by the Anglo-Australian mining and petroleum group BHP Billiton.
In a pilot effort, the Foundation is measuring the water footprint of products and companies, mostly in the northern region of Atacama, which is a semi-desert area, with scarce water resources, major mining projects, and export agriculture.
The results will be ready in December for six farming companies in the Copiapó and Huasco watersheds, in Atacama, which produce table grapes, avocados, olives and vegetables.
With a portion of that data, the institution is calculating the situation of the entire Huasco watershed. To create a complete map, it is preparing to measure — for the first time in the world — the full impact of mining activity on water.
There are already companies interested in what the Foundation is doing. The area is home to the highly controversial Pascua Lama gold and silver deposits, to be mined by the Canadian company Barrick Gold.
“We see the measurement of the watersheds as much more interesting than the measurement of the companies,” Ulrike Broschek, the Chile Foundation’s director of water and industry, told Tierramérica.
The fact is that the water footprints cannot be compared if the companies producing a specific product are located in geographically different places, with different precipitation patterns and different soil compositions.
In the watershed, however, “I can conclude that the table grape is much more efficient in terms of water consumption than the vegetables, or vice versa,” explained Broschek. This implies “determining the true impacts of each activity within a watershed,” taking into account various factors, like productivity, she said.
Once it has the results, the Foundation hopes to set up models for different scenarios in Huasco, like the launch of a new mining operation or a season of drought. Those models will then be used to evaluate other watersheds, said Broschek.
With applications like this, the water footprint could become a management tool, both for the public and private sectors, she said. There have been many disputes in Chile in recent years over the contamination of rivers and the conflicting interests of the mining, farming, sanitation and hydroelectric sectors.
According to Broschek, although the companies’ interest in the water footprint tends to emerge from their concern with their public image, they soon realize that it is the first step to improving efficiency.
Along with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Foundation is measuring the water footprint of different farm and forest products, like grapes, apples, avocados and blueberries.
First they will estimate a national average per product, and the provide context according to where it was produced and the sustainability of the watershed involved, said Acevedo, who is calculating the footprint of Concha y Toro for the farming and bottling processes of its famous wines.
Although it is not a requirement of the international market, the water footprint is an opportunity “to generate product faithfulness, differentiation and added value,” Paola Conca, head of sustainable commerce for the Board of Export Promotion, told Tierramérica.
“Providing information about the water footprint could be a factor of economic competition” for Latin America, “and Chile could be a pioneer in establishing methodologies,” because of the development of its private water market, said Joseluis Samaniego, director of sustainable development and human settlements at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Because it is a heavy exporter, Chile decided to participate in the water footprint effort, and not wait for the international community to impose disadvantageous parameters, said Acevedo.
He believes such parameters will be a reality in two or three years, taking form as a “sustainable water” certification to assure that the produce does not come from inappropriate or stressed watersheds.
By Daniela Estrada
* IPS correspondent.
Investor Pressure Moves Toyota Affiliate to Divest from Joint Venture with Burmese Regime, Toyota states that it shares investor concerns about the human rights situation in Burma …
October 6, 2010
October 5, 2010 – In a letter to a group of investors, Toyota Motor North America confirmed that its major trading partner Toyota Tsusho (TTC) has divested its ownership stake in Myanmar Suzuki Motor. TTC jointly controlled the vehicle assembly plant with the Burmese military regime and Suzuki Motor Corp.
Toyota’s announcement followed three years of dialogue with a coalition of investors, including, Trillium Asset Management Corporation (“Trillium”), Domini Social Investments (“Domini”), Boston Common Asset Management and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.
In December 2006, research by Domini Social Investments uncovered an equity partnership between Toyota Tsusho and the Burmese military regime. Investors delivered a letter shortly thereafter to Toyota Motor’s Chairman, Fujio Cho, raising concerns about the company’s business ties to the repressive regime. Toyota Motor responded by confirming it had asked Toyota Tsusho to reconsider its business activities out of concern for the current environment in Burma.
In an August 12, 2010 letter to the investors, Group Vice President James Wiseman of Toyota Motor North America wrote “[W]e are pleased to report to you that as of June 2010, TTC had sold all of its shares in its Myanmar Suzuki joint venture… TTC is now fully divested from its joint venture operations in Burma.”
Holding over 20 percent of Toyota Tsusho’s shares, Toyota Motor is Toyota Tsusho’s largest shareholder. Toyota Tsusho partnered with the Burmese government to sell motorcycles, light trucks and cars. The Burmese government, which stands accused of systematic violations of human rights and crimes against humanity, tightly restricts the domestic market for these vehicles to its wealthiest citizens and those with military connections. Burma ranks among the poorest countries in the world, with the majority of the Burmese population living in poverty.
“We commend Toyota and the role it played in persuading its affiliate to reconsider its ties to the Burmese military rulers. As long as human suffering persists in Burma at the hands of the junta, companies cannot ignore their responsibility to insure their or their affiliate operations do not aid the regime’s offenses,” commented Susan Baker, a research analyst at Trillium who studies the impact of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors upon investment performance. “Any link to building vehicles to aid the military government’s misrule and brutal suppression of its own people raises moral and reputational issues that present risks to the long term value of the Toyota brand,” she continued.
“Toyota Motor has taken an important step to acknowledge and address human rights concerns within its sphere of influence,” said Shin Furuya, Lead Research Analyst, Global, for Domini. Although Toyota Tsusho has ended its only known direct joint venture with the Burmese government, it continues involvement in other operations in Burma including agricultural and apparel production, which could have significant human rights impacts.
“Toyota Motor and its group needs to continue to address these concerns whether the particular operations have direct business ties with the military regime or not. All companies operating in Burma need to review their relationships with their trading partners and carefully consider whether their company’s operations could directly or indirectly contribute to human rights violations,” he continued. Domini has consistently excluded Toyota Motor from its mutual fund portfolios, partially due to its involvement in Burma.
“The corporate responsibility to respect human rights is becoming the international norm,” commented Rev. David M. Schilling, director of human rights, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. “The UN Human Rights Council adopted recommendations of the UN Special Representative for Business and Human Rights in June 2008, including the commitment that companies need to demonstrate respect for human rights, not just adopt statements. Toyota’s action to influence its affiliate to divest from Myanmar Suzuki Motor is a good example of its human rights commitment.”
Toyota’s formal acknowledgement of divestment came a day before the Burmese government announced its first elections in 20 years. News of the election drew widespread criticism as it imposes many restrictions, including barring Aung San Suu Kyi, imprisoned leader of the National League for Democracy and winner of the 1990 elections, from participating. The investor group will continue to encourage Toyota Motor to address these issues and to develop human rights risk and impact assessment tools, particularly in countries considered to have substantial human rights risks such as Burma and Sudan.
Trillium Asset Management Corporation is a Boston-based, independent investment management firm devoted exclusively to sustainable and responsible investing.
Domini Social Investments is a New York City-based investment firm specializing exclusively in socially responsible investing. Domini manages funds for individual and institutional investors who wish to integrate social and environmental standards into their investment decisions.
Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) has been a leader of the corporate social responsibility movement for nearly 40 years. ICCR’s membership is an association of 275 faith-based institutional investors, including national denominations, religious communities, pension funds, foundations, hospital corporations, economic development funds, asset management companies, colleges, and unions. Each year ICCR-member religious institutional investors sponsor over 200 shareholder resolutions on major social and environmental issues.
Securities and Exchange Commission approves changes that make it easier for shareholders to nominate directors of public companies…
August 27, 2010
By MARCY GORDON, AP Business Writer Marcy Gordon, AP Business Writer – Wed Aug 25, 2:37 pm ET WASHINGTON
The Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday approved changes that make it easier for shareholders to nominate directors of public companies.
The 3-2 vote allows groups that own at least 3 percent of a company’s stock to put their nominees for board seats on the annual proxy ballot sent to all shareholders. The new financial overhaul law enacted last month formally gave the SEC the authority to make the change.
Under the current system, investors must appeal to shareholders at their own expense if they seek new directors on a company’s board or a bylaw change.
The new policy was long sought by investor advocates. But business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a group representing CEOs of large corporations, oppose it. The panel’s two Republican commissioners voted no. One of them warned that it would likely be overturned by a court.
The change comes as investors are angry about risks corporations are taking for short-term profit gains and extravagant compensation packages for executives. Getting candidates on the board gives supporters a better shot at influencing company policy. For a majority of public U.S. companies, the policy change will be in place in time for next spring’s corporate elections season. But it will be put off for three years for the roughly 5,000 companies deemed small, with $75 million or less in market value, of the total 10,000 to 12,000 public companies.
SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro has said the vote was one of the most contentious issues ever addressed by the agency. The change is “a matter of fairness and accountability,” she said at Wednesday’s meeting.
But Commissioner Kathleen Casey called it “so fundamentally and fatally flawed that it will have great difficulty surviving judicial scrutiny.” The new rules favor big institutional shareholders over individuals, she said.
Casey and Commissioner Troy Paredes, the two Republicans on the panel, maintained the rules will trample states’ rights. States are allowed to establish their own procedures for companies based within their borders for conducting shareholder elections. That’s an area where court challenges could come in, Casey suggested.
A U.S. Chamber of Commerce official called it “a giant step backwards for average investors” and said the organization plans to fight it. He didn’t say specifically whether the Chamber would mount a legal challenge to the new rules.
Supporters say the change was necessary, especially in light of the risks taken that led to the financial crisis. The new rules are likely to be used “only in egregious cases where boards have ignored shareowners’ concerns,” said Amy Borrus, deputy director of the Council of Institutional Investors, which represents public pension funds. Yet the fact that the tool is there could make directors more responsive, she added.
Under the new rules, the shareholders will need to have held the minimum level of stock for at least three years. In addition, shareholders won’t able to borrow stock to meet the minimum 3 percent level. And they will have to certify in writing that they don’t intend to use the new rules to change control of the company or gain more seats on the board than the one or 25 percent of the board – whichever is greater – permitted in the new regime.
Until now, the SEC hadn’t made a thorough review of the proxy system in 30 years. In that time, there have been numerous changes in technology, shareholder demographics and the structure of share holdings.
“Corporate accountability is important, particularly for the small number of runaway CEOs who can wreck our economy,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who wrote the provision in the financial overhaul law giving the SEC authority to make the change. “This proposal strikes the right balance by specifically empowering those shareholders who take a long-term perspective.”
Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR): Read on for INCR’s quick rundown on the latest federal financial reforms…
August 19, 2010
On July 21, President Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This law contains provisions relevant to disclosure and regulation of material environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks and thus of potential interest to members of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, including the following:
- Makes the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investor Advisory Committee (IAC), first established in 2009, a permanent body. This is a clear “win” for INCR members, since the members must include representatives of “the interests of institutional investors, including the interests of pension funds and registered investment companies.” The IAC has been useful to INCR as a forum for publicly discussing and advancing climate and other ESG disclosure issues. While no recommendations on ESG issues have yet come out of the IAC, they are expected within the next year.
- Establishes a new Federal Insurance Office within the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The duties of this new Office include “monitor[ing] all aspects of the insurance industry, including identifying issues or gaps in the regulation of insurers that could contribute to a systemic crisis in the insurance industry or the United States financial system.” These responsibilities could theoretically include assessing the impacts of climate change and the risks it poses to the insurance sector and its financial stability, such as losses due to extreme weather events. INCR members have engaged with insurance companies and state insurance commissioners for years, and federal involvement with this issue could accelerate insurers’ activities to address climate risk.
- Establishes an interagency working group – composed of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), U.S. Department of Agriculture, Treasury Department, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) – to conduct and complete within six months “a study on the oversight of existing and prospective carbon markets to ensure an efficient, secure, and transparent carbon market, including oversight of spot markets and derivative markets.”
- Establishes an Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee to conduct public meetings (at least twice a year), submit recommendations to the CFTC, and “serve as a vehicle for discussion and communication on matters of concern to exchanges, firms, end users, and regulators regarding energy and environmental markets and their regulation by the Commission.” The Committee is to be made up of members “who represent a broad spectrum of interests, including hedgers and consumers.”
- Creates a new Office of the Investor Advocate within the SEC, which will, among other things, “identify areas in which investors would benefit from changes in the regulations of the Commission or the rules of self-regulatory organizations” such as stock exchanges.
- Gives the SEC authority to grant shareholders proxy access to nominate directors. This has the potential to be a significant development affecting the make-up of corporate boards, as it could give large shareholders the opportunity to directly nominate directors (including directors with ESG expertise) on corporate ballots. The actual requirements for gaining proxy access will be determined by the final version of the SEC’s proxy access rules, expected this month.
- Adds reporting requirements regarding coal and other mine safety, including requiring companies to disclose the total number of violations of mandatory health or safety standards at each coal or other mine they or a subsidiary operate. This supports INCR members’ efforts to obtain SEC disclosure guidance on material environmental, social and governance risks that affect shareholder value.
- Directs the SEC to issue rules requiring companies that extract oil, natural gas, or minerals and that are required to file annual reports with the SEC to disclose information relating to any payments made “to a foreign government or the Federal Government for the purpose of the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals.” This should increase transparency for investors regarding the actual costs and beneficiaries of resource development.
Friends Fiduciary is a member of INCR, which is a project of CERES.
Federal Court Rescinds USDA Approval of Genetically Engineered Sugar Beets. Order Bans Planting or Sale of Controversial Crop. Court Denies Monsanto Request to Allow Continued Planting.
August 17, 2010
Today Judge Jeffrey White, federal district judge for the Northern District of California, issued a ruling granting the request of plaintiffs Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and the Sierra Club to rescind the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) approval of genetically engineered “Roundup Ready” sugar beets (Center for Food Safety v. Vilsack, No. C08-00484 JSW [N.D. Cal. 2010]). In September 2009, the Court had found that the USDA had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by approving the Monsanto-engineered biotech crop without first preparing an Environmental Impact Statement. The crop was engineered to resist the effects of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, which it sells to farmers together with the patented seed. Similar Roundup Ready crops have led to increased use of herbicides, proliferation of herbicide resistant weeds, and contamination of conventional and organic crops.
In today’s ruling the Court officially “vacated” the USDA “deregulation” of Monsanto’s biotech sugar beets and prohibited any future planting and sale pending the agency’s compliance with NEPA and all other relevant laws. USDA has estimated that an EIS may be ready by 2012.
Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of plaintiff and co-counsel the Center for Food Safety, stated, “This is a major victory for farmers, consumers and the rule of law. USDA has once again acted illegally and had its approval of a biotech crop rescinded. Hopefully the agency will learn that their mandate is to protect farmers, consumers and the environment and not the bottom line of corporations such as Monsanto.”
Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, commented: “Time and again, USDA has ignored the law and abdicated its duty to protect the environment and American agriculture from genetically engineered crops designed to sell toxic chemicals. Time and again, citizens speaking truth to power have taken USDA to court and won.”
In his order, Judge White noted that USDA’s “errors are not minor or insignificant, and his “concern that Defendants are not taking this process seriously.” He also pointed out that “despite the fact that the statutes at issue are designed to protect the environment,” USDA and the sugar beet industry focused on the economic consequences to themselves, yet “failed to demonstrate that serious economic harm would be incurred pending a full economic review….”
The Court held in part: …the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs’ request to vacate APHIS’s decision to deregulate genetically engineered sugar beets and remands this matter to APHIS. Based on this vacatur, genetically engineered sugar beets are once again regulated articles pursuant to the Plant Protection Act. This vacatur applies to all future plantings…
This is the second time a Court has rescinded USDA’s approval of a biotech crop. The first such crop, Roundup Ready alfalfa, is also illegal to plant, based on the vacating of its deregulation in 2007 pending preparation of an EIS. Although Monsanto took that case all the way to the Supreme Court and the High Court set aside part of the relief granted, the full prohibition on its planting – based on the same remedy granted here, the vacatur – remains in place. In the past several years federal courts have also held illegal USDA’s approval of biotech crop field trials, including the testing of biotech grasses in Oregon and the testing of engineered, pharmaceutical-producing crops in Hawai.
Report from the Center for Food Safety
Farmers Lean to Truce on Animals’ Close Quarters
August 13, 2010
Ohio farmers agreed to phase out confinement of livestock, underscoring the clout of the animal welfare movement.
Oil Disasters Common in Last Decade
August 12, 2010
A new report catalogs a decade of serious oil spills, fires, leaks and loss of life over the last decade that National Wildlife Federation says underscores petroleum company malfeasance. According to the report, from 2000 to 2010, the oil and gas industry accounted for hundreds of deaths, explosions, fires, seeps, and spills as well as habitat and wildlife destruction in the United States. These disasters demonstrate that the BP incident is not merely an accident but an industry pattern that places profit ahead of communities, local economies, and the environment.
The report, *Assault on America: A Decade of Petroleum Company Disaster, Pollution, and Profit,* provides a sampling of thousands of on- and off-shore disasters of all types, large and small. These examples from each year shed light on how the oil and gas industry has continued to show negligence and experience accidents all over the country. While not exhaustive, the listing offers a cross-section of spills, leaks, fires, explosions, toxic emissions, water pollution, and more that have not occurred in the last decade * the post- Exxon Valdez era, the post- Oil Pollution Act of 1990 era, when the industry claimed to have mended their dangerous ways.
Source: National Wildlife Federation – for the full report:
RESULTS OF MENENDEZ’S MAJOR FORTUNE 500 DIVERSITY SURVEY: REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN AND MINORITIES ON CORPORATE BOARDS STILL LAGS FAR BEHIND NATIONAL POPULATION
August 10, 2010
Minorities represent 14.5% of corporate boards; women 18%. One of most successful corporate diversity surveys ever — 219 of Fortune 500 responded; 71 of Fortune 100.
August 4, 2010
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Democratic Task Force and the lone Hispanic Senator, today unveiled the results of his survey on women and minority representation among the senior management of Fortune 500 companies, as well as their use of minority and women-owned businesses in the contracting and procurement process. The survey found that women and minority representation on corporate boards continues to lag far behind the national population percentages. Menendez’s survey was one of the most successful of its kind, garnering input from 219 corporations on the Fortune 500 list and 71 on the Fortune 100 list.
The study found minorities to represent a total of 14.5% of directors on corporate boards and overall have less representation on executive teams than they do on corporate boards. Hispanics are least proportionately represented on boards and fared even worse on executive teams. They comprise 3.28% of board members and 2.90% on executive teams, about one-fifth of the 15% they represent in the U.S. population. Among minority groups, African Americans have the highest representation on boards compared to their population, but saw greatest decline in representation from boards to executive management teams, from 8.77% to 4.23%. Women on the other hand fared better on executive teams than on corporate boards, with 18.04% and 19.87% of representation respectively, but these figures still represent less than one-half of their proportion of the national population.
Senator Menendez and others also offered concrete recommendations, including the creation of a task force with select corporations, executive search firms, board members, and other experts to help companies move in this direction.
“As Chair of the Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force, one of my top priorities has always been promoting and expanding diversity at all levels of our economic, political and social sectors, and the basic understanding that has resulted from this survey will help guide us in doing so,” said Senator Menendez. “This report clearly confirms what we had suspected all along – that American corporations need to do better when it comes to having the board rooms on Wall Street reflect the reality on Main Street. We need to change the dynamic and make it commonplace for minorities to be part of the American corporate structure. It is not just about doing what’s right, but it’s a good business decision that will benefit both corporations and the communities they’re tapping into and making investments in. That’s why I’m offering my recommendations and to work one-on-one with companies who want to move those numbers and company executives who want to make a difference in the community.”
“At the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) as an organization that represents more than 200 local Hispanic Chambers across the United States, and speaks for 3 million small and minority-owned businesses throughout the nation, we believe that embracing diversity is not just the right thing to do, but is a smart business decision. To us, diversity is not an abstract concept – we measure success by the qualified Hispanic employees hired, developed, advanced and flourishing with their corporate employers and we applaud Senator Menendez’s leadership in holding corporate America accountable to their commitments to diversity.” Said Javier Palomarez, President & CEO of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“A diverse workforce is critical to providing the best service to our global clients, supporting our business initiatives and creating a workplace environment that promotes respect and fairness,” said Jose Manuel Souto, Chief Financial Officer for Visa in Latin America.
“Our country is very rich in diversity, and our economic progress resides largely in our ability to harness that diversity. In our industry we experience first hand the enormous amount of untapped investment talent, thirsty for opportunities to prove to institutional investors its ability to compete and deliver. We commend Sen. Menendez for his vision and leadership, and invite corporate America to see these efforts as an opportunity to find new competitive advantages. By exploring the utilization of fresh and capable diverse talent Corporate America wins and our country’s economic progress accelerates.” Said Monika Mantilla, President & CEO of Altura Capital, and New America Alliance Board Member.
“Ethnic diversity on public company boards is ultimately good business. When 40% or more of your customers in America are going to be minorities, companies, to be competitive, need the insights and expertise of Board members who understand how to market to those segments. Senator Menendez is to be commended for making this issue one of public discussion and dialogue.” Said Roel Campos, former SEC Commissioner and Board member of the New America Alliance.
This survey is one of the largest studies of women and minority diversity among corporate leadership with one of the highest response rates. A total of 219 Fortune 500 companies participated, including 71 Fortune 100 companies, making this one of the largest surveys on women and minority representation in corporate leadership ever. It requested the following information from corporations: 1) whether or not they have written diversity plans with targets, 2) data on diversity at the Board and executive management level, and 3) information on supplier diversity.
Click here to view a PDF of the survey: http://menendez.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Menendez%20Diversity%20Survey2.pdf
Click here to read a PDF of the findings and recommendations report: http://menendez.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/CorporateDiversityReport2.pdf
Most important findings of the survey and recommendations based on this data:
Diversity on Corporate Boards
-Women represent 18.04% of Directors; 1 out of every 5 Board members is female. The proportional representation of women on Boards is less than one-half of their proportion to the overall U.S. population.
-Minorities represent 14.45% of Directors; 1 out of every 7 Board members is a minority. Minorities represent less than half of the 35% of the population they comprise overall in this country.
-Blacks/African Americans have the highest representation at 8.77% compared to their population, reporting a Board ratio of about 69%.
-Hispanics have one of the poorest representations on Boards. They comprise about 3.28% of Board members, one-fifth of the 15% they represent in the U.S. population.
Native Americans made up about .04% of Board members, approximately 5% of their actual population.
Diversity on Executive Teams (CEO and direct reports)
-Women represent 19.87 percent of Directors; 1 out of every 5 Board members is female. Although women fared slightly better on executive teams than on corporate Boards, they still represent less than one-half of their population.
-Minorities overall have less representation on executive teams than they do on corporate Boards, representing 10.44% of executive managers, compared to 30% of their actual proportion to the U.S. population.
-Blacks/African Americans saw the greatest decline in representation from Boards to executive management teams, 8.77% to 4.23%. In fact, they went from about one out of every 11 Board members to one out of every 24 executive team members. When compared to population statistics, Blacks/African Americans on executive boards represented only about one-third of their U.S. population.
-Hispanics/Latinos fare worse on executive teams versus corporate Boards at 2.90%, Asians and Native Americans do slightly better at 2.55% and .25% respectively.
Only 98 corporations (less than half of respondents) provided some form of data on supplier diversity, whether it was by racial/ethnic category or just overall procurement with Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs). 118 corporations either chose not to answer the question or said they do not track this data at all.
Of the data collected:
• Hispanic/Latino-owned firms represent 2.69% of total procurement.
• Black/African American-owned firms represent 2.58% of total procurement.
• Asian-owned firms represent 3.21% of total procurement.
• Native American-owned firms represent 0.83% of total procurement.
• Other minority-owned firms represent 3.31% of total procurement
The following are recommendations that corporations can implement today if they are serious about improving diversity at the top:
-Develop Relationships with Expert Organizations Outside of Traditional Networks. Nominating committees should never use the excuse that they cannot find a qualified minority or a woman to nominate to their Board. This was actually a common response over the course of this survey. There are numerous organizations that may be outside of the traditional network but have extensive contacts, resources and expertise in different communities and know who the right people are. Those organizations should be engaged to the fullest extent.
-Do Not Recruit Solely at the Ivy League Schools. Expanding recruitment from Ivy League schools to other top schools can be another way to get qualified diverse candidates into the corporate pipeline. Also, developing relationships with professional organizations that can help identify qualified people through their memberships.
-Utilize Executive Search Firms with Expertise in Diverse Communities or Require Them to Seriously Consider Diversity. The survey showed that a discussion of diversity when using executive search firms did not necessarily correlate with improved diversity. Therefore, steps should be taken beyond just a simple discussion. All search firms should be obligated to look for and provide companies with diverse, qualified candidates rather than simply pulling from traditional pools of candidates. For example, diverse candidates who have experience running large non-profits or government agencies should not be ruled out, especially if their issue expertise aligns with the company mission. A search firm should be able to provide detailed information on what they are doing proactively to recruit diverse candidates. In addition, search firms that have unique expertise with diverse communities should be recruited to help identify candidates for Board and executive management positions. Insight into diverse communities can create a lot of business for a search firm that is effective in a niche space.
-Interview at Least One Diverse Candidate When Filling Board or Leadership Positions. Similar to the National Football League’s self-imposed “Rooney Rule,” where at least one minority candidate is interviewed for head coaching and senior football operations opportunities, nominating committees, CEOs and Human Resources personnel should aim to interview at least one minority candidate when looking to fill leadership positions. These interviews should be done in a serious and meaningful manner, not simply to check a box.
-Link Success with Diversity to Bonuses. Corporations should link diversity among each business department to the bonuses and annual performance reviews of business leaders. The survey found that corporations that do this tend to have better diversity among their workforce and among the top leadership.
-Hire Chief Diversity Officers from Diverse Communities. It is crucial that diversity chiefs at a company come from the communities they are recruiting from and working with. These individuals are more likely to have ties to the communities they represent and can use those relationships to recruit diverse candidates for positions at all levels.
-Hold More than Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer Accountable for Diversity. Diversity should be a goal in every aspect of a company’s operations not only in the areas of procurement, Board and senior management levels, but also in a company’s treasury office where financial oversight lies. Diversity should be considered among brokerage fees that extend to professional services like legal fees, mergers and acquisitions, pension fund management, and other services. Many times the budget for these types of services significantly exceeds that for suppliers. These areas should be part of a corporation’s diversity plan. While this particular survey did not ask questions related to brokerage fees and professional services, the next one will.
-Create External Advisory Councils to Assist with Diversity. Forming an external advisory council to focus on diversity is a good step to developing relationships within specific communities and identifying potential candidates for positions. These Councils should not be formed only when there is a crisis. There should be a separate council for each diverse group, i.e. women, Asians, etc, and each should report to the CEO. These councils should be composed of outside community leaders that do work and have extensive networks with these communities.
-Be Clear on the Difference Between U.S. Employees and Foreign Employees When Filling Directorships and Other Leadership Positions. Although this survey did not ask corporations to differentiate between U.S. and foreign employees, future surveys will. Foreign Nationals should be considered separately from the levels of diversity for U.S. employees.
-Groom Senior Employees for Top Positions. It is critical that corporations implement meaningful succession planning, whether in the form of a mentoring program or other similar mechanism, for senior employees of a company who can be groomed for top leadership positions in the future. Such a program should require a significant time investment from the CEO and his or her leadership team. These programs help identify people who not only could be future leaders of the company, but could be tapped for Director positions on other corporate Boards.
-Track Supplier Diversity So It Becomes a Priority. The lack of data shared regarding diverse suppliers, specifically in terms of a breakdown by ethnic/racial category, proves that this is an area that needs work. According to the latest census figures, there are more than 7.8 million women-owned businesses and 5.8 million minority-owned businesses. It is important to make an effort to procure with diverse suppliers and track this progress over time. If a corporation does not know where it stands, it cannot take action to improve.
-Philanthropy is Good, but Not Enough. This survey showed two things, among others: that there is much philanthropy, but less diversity. Although philanthropy is good and should be part of a corporation’s diversity plan, philanthropy alone is simply not enough. Diversity at all levels should be made a priority not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it is a good business decision.
-Opportunities for Board Diversity When Companies Go Public. Some companies have been bought by private equity firms that will take them public very soon. In the process, companies will have to rename an entirely new Board of Directors. This provides a prime opportunity to seek the most diverse, qualified candidates for Director positions and can have the quickest impact on improving Board diversity. Corporations that fall into this category will be watched closely over the coming year.
-Do Not Rely Solely on Written Diversity Plans. While corporations with written plans are more likely to have better diversity among their leadership as well as with suppliers, the gains were only slight. Therefore, corporations should not rely solely on written diversity plans, but should also implement more far-reaching changes that can have an even greater impact. Implementing some of the aforementioned recommendations should provide corporations a good step in the right direction.
Maplecroft survey alerts companies to investment risks of water scarcity worldwide
July 2, 2010
African nations led by Somalia, Mauritania and Sudan have the most precarious water supplies in the world while Iceland has the best, according to a survey …that aims to alert companies to investment risks. The ranking, compiled by British-based risk consultancy Maplecroft, said climate change and a rising world population meant that stresses on supplies would be of increasing concern in coming decades for uses from farming to industry…The study said…Industry uses another 22 percent [of worldwide water consumption]…It said that companies including Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Marks & Spencer, Coca-Cola or Devon Energy were among those seeking to reduce water use…
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
July 1, 2010
The United States is now re-considering its position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Read on to learn more from Andrea Carmen, Yaqui Nation, the executive director of the International Indian Treaty Council, which has been involved in negotiations on the U.N. Declaration for nearly three decades.
Originally printed at http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/opinion/columnists/97150584.html
On April 20, at the Ninth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice announced that the United States will conduct a “formal review” of its position in opposition to the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Declaration was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 13, 2007 when 144 countries voted in favor, 11 abstained, and four countries voted against it – the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Since then, all of the four countries that voted “no” have either reversed their positions or have initiated a process towards doing so.
The Declaration was developed over a 30-year process at the United Nations with the participation of thousands of indigenous peoples, nations, tribal governments and organizations from the United States and around the world, as well as a number of independent experts.
It recognizes and affirms a wide range of rights, including self-determination, land and natural resources, cultural rights and sacred sites protection, subsistence, treaty rights, health and social services, non-discrimination, environmental protection, education, language, and many others which indigenous peoples identified as essential to their dignity, survival and well-being.
During its review, the U.S. State Department will consult with various branches of the U.S. government. It will also consult and seek input from indigenous nations, tribes and organizations, as well as other interested parties including non-governmental organizations and human rights organizations.
The State Department’s face-to-face consultations with tribal nations and NGO’s began in June 2010, and it requested written submissions by July 15. Here are some points that may be helpful for those planning to have input into this process:
- In her April 20 statement, Rice recognized the call by tribal leaders for the U.S. to re-examine its position on the declaration as “an important recommendation that directly complements our commitment to work together with the international community on the many challenges that indigenous peoples face.”
- The rights in the UNDRIP are consistent with a range of international human rights instruments that the United States has already ratified. These include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and more than 400 nation-to-nation treaties with indigenous nations.
- Many of the rights in the UNDRIP are already being implemented in a number of U.S. federal laws, policies and executive orders.
- Human rights and dignity are inherent and inalienable according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, established in 1948. The UNDRIP defines and elaborates the inherent rights of indigenous peoples.
- The UNDRIP affirms a wide range of rights which are directly relevant to the issues of greatest concern to Indian tribes, nations and communities in the United States today, and we encourage you to give examples from your nation and region.
- The rights recognized in the UNDRIP “constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world,” according to Article 43 of the Declaration.
The preamble of the Declaration says “Recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples in this Declaration will enhance cooperative and harmonious relations between the State (nations) and Indigenous Peoples.” The UNDRIP also provides a framework for problem-solving and conflict resolution.
- The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommended in 2008 that the United States use the declaration “as a guide to interpret the state party’s obligations under the convention relating to indigenous peoples.”
- Full recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples is an essential component of a just and honorable U.S. human rights policy both at home and in the international arena.
- It will be very important for the U.S. government, at the end of its review process, to state its unqualified endorsement and support for the UNDRIP, and present specific plans for its implementation.
In summary, the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was developed over many years with the participation of thousands of indigenous peoples to be an integrated and inter-related human rights doctrine. It reflects the concerns and input of both indigenous peoples and countries. It is consistent with human rights principles as contained in international laws and norms, as well as the U.S. Constitution.
We call upon the U.S. government to endorse the U.N. Declaration in its entirety, without qualifications or exceptions, and to work in full partnership with indigenous peoples, tribal governments and nations to ensure its implementation.
June 28, 2010
The financial reform bill, currently being considered, aims to provide consumer protection, reduce systemic risk, and improve corporate governance. Read on to learn the reasoning behind the bill and the highlights of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act as currently drafted.
Americans have faced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Millions have lost their jobs, businesses have failed, housing prices have dropped, and savings were wiped out.
The failures that led to this crisis require bold action. We must restore responsibility and accountability in our financial system to give Americans confidence that there is a system in place that works for and protects them. We must create a sound foundation to grow the economy and create jobs.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE LEGISLATION
Consumer Protections with Authority and Independence: Creates a new independent watchdog, housed at the Federal Reserve, with the authority to ensure American consumers get the clear, accurate information they need to shop for mortgages, credit cards, and other financial products, and protect them from hidden fees, abusive terms, and deceptive practices.
Ends Too Big to Fail Bailouts: Ends the possibility that taxpayers will be asked to write a check to bail out financial firms that threaten the economy by: creating a safe way to liquidate failed financial firms; imposing tough new capital and leverage requirements that make it undesirable to get too big; updating the Fed’s authority to allow system-wide support but no longer prop up individual firms; and establishing rigorous standards and supervision to protect the economy and American consumers, investors and businesses.
Advance Warning System: Creates a council to identify and address systemic risks posed by large, complex companies, products, and activities before they threaten the stability of the economy.
Transparency & Accountability for Exotic Instruments: Eliminates loopholes that allow risky and abusive practices to go on unnoticed and unregulated — including loopholes for over-the-counter derivatives, asset-backed securities, hedge funds, mortgage brokers and payday lenders.
Executive Compensation and Corporate Governance: Provides shareholders with a say on pay and corporate affairs with a non-binding vote on executive compensation and golden parachutes.
Protects Investors: Provides tough new rules for transparency and accountability for credit rating agencies to protect investors and businesses.
Enforces Regulations on the Books: Strengthens oversight and empowers regulators to aggressively pursue financial fraud, conflicts of interest and manipulation of the system that benefits special interests at the expense of American families and businesse
Investors Demanding Social Justice
June 4, 2010
Read on to hear what Executive Director Laura Berry had to say to the New York Times about the work of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), of which Friends Fiduciary is a member.
Published: June 3, 2010
As instances of business malefaction pile up — Enron, Madoff, Goldman Sachs, A.I.G., Toyota, BP, and we’re just clearing our throats with that lineup — the concept of corporate responsibility has acquired the sour air of an oxymoron for many people. Laura Berry is not one of them.
Ms. Berry is the executive director of an organization that bears that very idea in its name: the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. It doesn’t accept that doing good and doing well have to be mutually exclusive at American companies, recent experience notwithstanding. If ever the corporate world could use a healthy infusion of responsibility, this would seem to be the time.
“We come at this issue from a moral perspective, but we also come at it as investors,” Ms. Berry said. “I actually believe that God, whatever God is, set up the system so that it works better when we don’t cheat.”
Her center started out nearly 40 years ago as a bunch of Protestant groups concerned about companies’ profiting from the unpopular Vietnam War and the repugnant system of South African apartheid. Over the years, it has expanded to encompass Roman Catholic and Jewish organizations. Its interests have expanded as well, to include issues like access to capital, environmental protection, global warming, health care and sweatshop labor.
The organization’s members are 275 institutional investors, an amalgam of faith-based operations and secular groups focused on social justice issues. They see it as their duty to attend annual shareholders’ meetings and use proxy resolutions that call on corporations to pollute less, to pay more, to rein in greed and to dispel the opacity that makes much of today’s financial gimmickry incomprehensible to most people.
Their goal is not to be just a pain in someone else’s neck.
“We’re not this sort of scrappy little group of folks who want to cause trouble or point fingers at people and say, ‘Shame on you,’ ” Ms. Berry said. “We’re investors. We want corporations to do well. The money that we are stewards of goes to pay for retirement plans. It goes to pay for mission work all over the world. It goes to keep congregations and communities up and running. We’re certainly not rooting for disaster in the capital markets.”
Ms. Berry sat the other day in her office at the Interchurch Center, a collection of religious and ecumenical groups on Riverside Drive, popularly known to New Yorkers as “the God box.” Given the corporate horrors of recent vintage, she had cause to say that “we’re getting some notice for having been right” about the wrongness of certain behavior.
“We look at commercial markets through a slightly different lens,” she said. “We saw stuff early.” For example, “we filed the first resolutions about subprime lending with six financial institutions in 1993.”
Members of the interfaith center have introduced hundreds of shareholder resolutions on matters like executive pay, environmental risks, credit default swaps, toxic chemicals, child labor, slavery and other practices that range from unsavory to downright evil.
EVENTS like the financial meltdown of 2008 and now the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico suggest to Ms. Berry that groups like hers saw around corners, making them worthy of being listened to before disaster strikes.
“There are so many areas where we as investors see the places where systems con themselves into thinking that a major catastrophe can’t happen,” she said. “We’re concerned investors who try to identify risks that could be bad for humanity and bad for our portfolios. We feel strongly that these two things are deeply interconnected.”
Do corporations listen? Sometimes. Wal-Mart has changed some labor policies, Ms. Berry said, and some pharmaceutical companies have responded to “justice actions.” But in the corporate universe, turning a deaf ear remains a default position.
“Do they just pat us on the head, and send us away, and say, ‘Oh, it’s be-nice-to-nuns week,’ or whatever?” she said. Sure. “But they know we don’t go away,” she said. “We may be annoying. We may be trivialized. But we do our homework, and we don’t go away.”
And it could be argued, Ms. Berry said, that her group’s faith-based members are “the ultimate long-term investors.” She laughed, to seem not to be taking herself too seriously. Nonetheless, she said, “Our investment horizon is eternity.”
A version of this article appeared in print on June 4, 2010, on page A19 of the New York edition.
Exxon Mobil Corporate Citizenship Report
May 27, 2010
ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) has published its 2009 Corporate Citizenship Report-Addressing the Sustainability Challenge, detailing actions to improve environmental, economic, and social performance. The full report is available on their website by clicking here.
As outlined by the Chairman and CEO Rex W. Tillerson, the company will continue to address the challenge of sustainability by:
- Maintaining its focus on safety and environmental protection in all its operations;
- advocating for an integrated set of solutions to today’s major energy challenges emphasizing the power of technology to increase energy efficiency, help address climate change risks, and develop all economical energy sources to meet the needs of today and future generations;
- remaining committed to transparent and ethical practices to respect human rights and to being a positive force for economic development in the communities where we operate;
- expanding the bounds of innovation in ways that allow society to meet the challenge of rising energy demand while mitigating the impact of rising greenhouse gas emissions; and,
- engaging with those who take an interest in our business and participate in constructive, progress-oriented partnerships that address global challenges and help societies gain sustainable benefits from our presence.
For the second time, an independent External Assessment Panel provided feedback on the report’s strengths and future improvement opportunities. A summary of the Panel’s comments has been posted at http://www.exxonmobil.com/panelfeedback
The company’s achievements in 2009 include:
- Best-ever combined employee and contractor workforce lost-time incident rates
- A 13% reduction in the volume of hydrocarbons spilled from nonmarine sources since 2008
- Zero spills from ExxonMobil owned and operated marine vessels
- A 23% reduction in upstream hydrocarbon flaring since 2008
- Investment in algae-based biofuels research
- $860 million spent with U.S.-based minority- and women-owned businesses
- Combined corporate, employee, and retiree giving community investments of $235 million
- Provided dedicated human rights awareness training to eight priority affiliates
ExxonMobil welcomes your comments and requests for a hard copy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What the Climate Bill Means for Farmers
May 25, 2010
Thus far the majority of analysis of the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill has focused on the energy components of the bill, including an extension of nuclear power, clean coal” from carbon storage and sequestration, and offshore drilling expansion. The bill also provides unprecedented programs for agriculture and food systems in the U.S. and internationally. Unfortunately, while the bill contains strong language promoting sustainable agriculture, it also offers support for troubling agricultural practices that have yet to significantly prove their capacity to reduce emissions.
I was at a meeting recently where someone said, “Agriculture is a culprit, a victim, and a solution,” which poignantly encapsulated the challenges and promise of agriculture in the future. Agriculture is responsible for problematic
emissions—particularly methane and nitrous oxide, which are generated by manures, livestock, and soil management, including nitrogen additions, and are considerably more potent than carbon dioxide. Agriculture stands to be greatly affected by climate change, from crop ranges to yields and water allocation. Yet farmers can do more than minimize their impact.
So, what does this climate bill ultimately mean for farmers, for the role of agriculture in the climate debate, and ultimately for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions?
First and foremost, the K-L bill follows in the footsteps of the Waxman-Markey legislation, passed last summer, by establishing an agricultural and forestry offsets program. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency predicted that such a program could provide annual net benefits to farmers as high as $18 billion—an amount that could fundamentally change the way America farms. Yet, while these benefits are attractive, achieving true GHG reductions must mean that legislation is incentivizing effective and real practices.
Under the K-L bill, the offsets program is run under the USDA with significant input from an advisory committee that could be made up of academics, business representatives, NGOs, and government officials. Though the projects that will be eligible for the offsets program are not officially set in stone, the bill does outline a “minimum number of practices” which must be considered for inclusion by the advisory committee. The list of practices is largely similar to
the one revealed in the Waxman-Markey bill last year after House Agriculture Committee Chairman Colin Peterson added a 50-plus page markup to the bill. The full list of “potential practices” is a diverse array, including altered tillage, cover cropping, nitrogen fertilization efficiency, farming methods used on certified organic farms, pasture-based livestock systems, reductions in animal management emissions, rotational grazing, crop rotations, and methods for increasing carbon sequestration in soils.
One notable difference, absent from the Waxman-Markey bill and other earlier versions of the Senate bill, is the inclusion of certified organic agriculture practices. A variety of research has found organic agricultural practices can increase carbon storage and decrease fossil fuel energy requirements and GHG emissions.
The K-L bill also goes one step further than just a carbon offset program. It establishes a “Carbon Conservation Program” designed to encourage GHG reductions and sequestration activities for landowners and others with grazing contracts not eligible for the offset program. The CCP does what a lot of farmers wanted: it provides a way to reward the early adopters of beneficial practices. It will provide incentives for farmers already practicing organic practices—or cover cropping or reduced tillage—to continue to do so. This is vital, but also has the potential to backfire if the practices being rewarded are not actually providing climate change benefits.
The bill’s list includes several practices that have questionable benefits to the climate and that could create additional environmental problems. Featured prominently is no-till agriculture, which is widely associated with Roundup-Ready genetically modified crops and often accompanied by increased herbicide use to control weeds in lieu of tilling. Biofuels are also weighted heavily in the
bill, even though certain kinds have been shown not to reduce greenhouse gases. The inclusion of composting in the bill ought to be positive, but “compost” can sometimes be a cover word for chemical-laden sewage sludge.
Close board oversight and quality methodologies will be crucial to verifying that any practices promoted by an offset program actually have the science to back up their measurable net reductions in GHG emissions. If a practice such as no-till
agriculture reduces carbon dioxide emissions by limiting the number of tractor
passes on a field, but simultaneously increases emissions of nitrous oxide—a
greenhouse gas 300 times as strong as carbon dioxide—and use of herbicides, the
overall benefit to the climate could be nil or worse. Technical assistance and outreach for farmers and landowners will also be incredibly important, but thus far, little research exists to understand the types of farms and farmers willing and able to participate in offset initiatives.
A climate bill that establishes a carbon offset program in agriculture and forestry is only going to be effective if those offsets are legitimate and if they are accompanied by strong efforts in other sectors. Unfortunately, the offshore drilling, expansion of carbon sequestration and storage practices, and nuclear power touted in the K-L bill not only have questionable benefits for reducing GHG emissions, but carry serious environmental risks such as has been clearly demonstrated by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Agriculture can and should be part of the solution by reducing its own emissions and sequestering carbon with proven techniques, but it’s not the only solution, and it cannot stand alone in a climate bill that falls so short of true environmental progress.
Source: Grist – the Latest from Grist by Meredith Niles
Date: May 17, 2010 11:13:53 AM EDT
Five Questions about Seed Donation to Haiti
May 20, 2010
Five Questions Monsanto Needs to Answer about its Seed Donation to Haiti
May 17, 2010
Blog post by Timi Gerson, Director of Advocacy
American Jewish World Service
Monsanto has donated $4 million in seeds to Haiti, sending 60 tons of conventional hybrid corn and vegetable seed, followed by 70 more tons of corn seed last week with an additional 345 tons of corn seed to come during the next year. Yet the number one recommendation of a recent report by Catholic Relief Services on post-earthquake Haiti is to focus on local seed fairs and not to introduce new or “improved” varieties at this time.
Some tough questions need to be asked and answered before we’ll know whether or not Monsanto’s donation will help or hurt long-term efforts to rebuild food sufficiency and sovereignty in Haiti. Here are five of them:
* What do Haitians think? Do rural organizations representing Haiti’s farmers actually want these seeds from Monsanto or not? We know at least one spokesperson for Haitian farmers isn’t interested. Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papay and the National Peasant Movement of the Papay Congress said in a recent article published by Grassroots International that “if people start sending hybrid, NGO seeds, that’s the end of Haitian agriculture.”
* Will Haitian farmers be able to use existing farming methods with these seeds or do they require a completely different set of techniques – for example, is it possible for these seeds to be banked year to year for use in more than one planting cycle? Hybrid seeds don’t have a great track record for re-planting, which means that farmers typically must buy new seeds every year.
* Does cultivation of these seeds require expensive new inputs and/or chemicals that may negatively impact the environment and soil over the long-term? Hybrids typically require a lot of fertilizers, pesticides, etc. and according to the press release, these will be provided through the USAID’s 5-year WINNER program. When the WINNER program is done, will farmers find themselves reliant on external inputs they can’t afford or access? What will the inputs leave behind in terms of the soil’s condition?
* Will the rest of the Monsanto seeds sent to Haiti over the next year be conventional or genetically modified (GM)? GM seeds are as controversial in Haiti as they are here at home. It is critical that Haitians themselves are in charge of the decision to plant or not plant GM; they first need to know what is being offered to them in the first place.
* Will the Monsanto seeds (whether conventional or GM) affect indigenous seed diversity by mixing with them and contaminating existing seed strains? Large influxes of non-native seeds have touched off controversy and alarmed environmental activists and peasant farmers from Mexico to Malaysia to Mali.
Agricultural development is critical for Haiti and was even before the earthquake. Lambi Fund of Haiti, a partner organization of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), has been working with rural communities to create indigenous seed banks, building expertise in farming techniques and using environmentally-friendly methods to renew depleted Haitian soil.
Advocates for common sense food aid, including AJWS, are asking Congress to spend the $150 million dollars requested by the Obama Administration for Food Aid to Haiti on resources that will help Haiti feed itself for the long-term. You can make your voice heard by signing this petition.
Monsanto’s donation – just like the US government’s in-kind food aid donations – should empower rather than dis-empower the rural communities working to grow food for their country over the long term. More to the point, the communities most affected by these donations should decide whether they want this aid at all and if so, what they want and when they want it. It’s unclear in this case if Monsanto or anyone else has asked them.
Probing the Causes of the BP Spill
May 17, 2010
At Yale Environment 360 this week, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John McQuaid writes about the underlying causes of the massive oil spill now spreading across the Gulf of Mexico. A close look at the accident shows that lax federal oversight, complacency by BP and the other companies involved, and the complexities of drilling a mile deep all combined to create the perfect environmental storm. Read McQuaid’s analysis by clicking here.
CLIMATE ACTION: A CALL FOR PEACE
May 14, 2010
Some thoughts from Byron Sanford, Director of William Penn House in DC
|At a Mother’s day potluck at William Penn House, Joelle Novey of the Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light and Joe Stanley of Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy discussed the pending climate legislation that will be reported out from committee to the Senate this week. As we have seen with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the coal mine disasters in West Virginia and the erratic weather patterns, it is clear that new legislation and safeguards are needed.
Religious leaders from across the nation are joining together to write to their Senators, in order to make the moral case for comprehensive climate legislation. Faith communities are calling for federal climate legislation that includes strong emission reductions, international adaptation assistance, and protections for low-income families. To be a peace activist, we must reduce the causes of war and violence. Key among these is our use of oil.
While climate legislation is being debated, we can all step-up our own responsibilities to the environment.
1. In the US, the petroleum used to produce plastic water bottles would fuel 100,000 US cars for 1 year.
2. In the US, we spend $15 billion a year on bottled water. In developing countries, $15 billion is spent for safe water.
3. A 20 mile round trip daily commute costs about $500 monthly. The same commute will cost about $200 a month on Metro. Carpooling also reduces costs, pollution and congestion
4. By raising your thermostat in the summer and lowering it in the winter, you reduce energy costs.
5. Insulate, buy local, bicycle, walk; all are cheap and effective.
Legislation alone will be hollow without personal commitment to change. As Ghandi said, “We must become the change we want to see in the world.”
Advocates for Environmental Human Rights Statements on BP disaster
May 7, 2010
Monique Harden of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights (AEHR) focuses her efforts on the environmental justice struggles in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast
region. This week, Monique published an opinion piece about the BP
disaster. Monique writes: “The BP oil drilling disaster demonstrates
that the need for clean up extends beyond the immediate damage to the
coastal region. We need to clean up the federal policy that prioritizes
fossil fuel production over our right to live in a healthy environment.”
Here is the link to the full article:
Friends Fiduciary Signs Letter in Response to Citizens United Decision
February 24, 2010
Friends Fiduciary, along with other interfaith leaders, recently signed on to a Letter from the Faith Community asking congress to address both the Citizens United* decision and the problems of the current campaign finance system by passing the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752 and H.R. 1826).
This legislation is still being considered for those who wish to make their opinions known to their legislators. While the date has passed for signing on to this letter, in the future, letters such as these will be posted for other Friends organizations to consider.
*The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, removes all but a handful of restraints on corporate political spending.
First Economy-Wide Climate Risk Disclosure Guidance
January 19, 2010
Positive news came from the SEC on January 27, as SEC Commissioners approved the release of an interpretive release which provides guidance to companies on disclosing material climate risks in SEC filings. This publication (effective once published in the Federal Register and soon available on the SEC website) will be the first economy-wide climate risk disclosure guidance in the world. Thanks to the work of many Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) and Ceres members, the guidance is likely to respond to key elements of the September 2007 investor climate risk petition to the SEC.
Investor Initiatives on Climate Risk – UN Summit
January 13, 2010
On January 14, as a member of INCR, FFC Executive Director Connie Brookes attended the UN Investor Summit on Climate Risk. INCR is the Investor Network on Climate Risk and promotes better understanding of the financial risks and investment opportunities posed by climate change. FFC is one of 80 members, which include asset managers, state and city treasurers and comptrollers, public and labor pension funds and foundations.
A high point of the Investor Summit was the release of a statement by investors, including FFC, calling on the U.S. and other governments to move quickly to adopt strong national climate policies that will spur low-carbon investments to reduce emissions causing climate change. The press release from Ceres noted comments from two conference attendees. Anne Arausboll, CEO of the CA Public Employees Retirement system (CalPERS) noted that “Investors are poised and ready to scale up investments in building the low carbon economy, but without policies that create a stable investment environment our hands are tied. U.S. leadership is critical in this regard, including U.S. Senate action to limit and put a price on carbon emissions.” Kevin Parker, global head of Deutsche Asset Management added that “What investors need most from national and state legislatures are transparency, longevity and certainty. Until the U.S. Congress passes climate regulation, America will be at a competitive disadvantage in the development of renewable energy and other climate change industries.”