IASJ Encourages Companies to Focus on Equity & Justice in Covid-19 Response
Investors are concerned about the impacts of coronavirus on their investment portfolios, but also on communities, workers, and society. In this unprecedented moment, companies often find themselves balancing competing short-term and financial priorities with the well-being of their employees. In some instances, this has resulted in employees placed at risk of contracting coronavirus because they are not being provided appropriate protective equipment or able to effectively social distance; losing employment without severance; and not being provided pay for medical leave. Many of the workers who are identified as “essential” are vulnerable and lack access to health care, including communities of color or immigrants. Historical and cumulative pollution from the fossil fuel industry and manufacturing create systemic risks that heighten the vulnerability both to exposure and negative outcomes if infected with Covid-19.
In response, Investor Advocates for Social Justice (IASJ) and its Affiliates have taken several actions, including in coordination with other investors and worker-driven groups. In our engagements, we are encouraging companies to center equity, justice, and the rights of those individuals who are most negatively impacted and most vulnerable and adjust their approach in response to the needs of these groups.
Specific engagement actions include:
- Signing onto an Investor Statement, supported by investors with $7.7 trillion in assets under management. This statement calls for companies to take 5 action steps to prioritize workers, including: provide paid leave, prioritize health and safety, maintain employment, keep supplier/customer relationships, and exercise fiscal prudence.
- Recognizing the risks facing workers in the meat processing facilities and the increasing number of infected workers and closing plants, IASJ sent an investor letter to Tyson Foods to encourage the company to: provide personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves, masks, face shields, and smocks to prevent the spread of the virus, create hand washing stations and make adjustments to facilities to enable social distancing, paid sick leave, premium pay, ensure incentives offered to employees align with public health goals, and address the unique impacts on the immigrant workforce.
- Media reports that workers at the Bath Iron Works (BIW) Navy shipyard in Maine have been infected, resulting in many workers calling for the facility to close, or at minimum, provide more protections, yet General Dynamics did not meet with union representatives. IASJ sent an investor letter to General Dynamics calling for the company to: provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent the spread of the virus, provide adequate access to hand washing stations and hand sanitizer, and sufficient break time to enable employees to wash their hands, provide paid sick leave, allow vulnerable workers to take paid administrative leave, provide premium pay for workers, adjust workspaces to maintain social distancing, and sanitize regularly.
- IASJ Affiliates signed onto a letter organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis calling on the state to address the specific risks facing farmworkers and calling for special protections.
- A shareholder proposal filed by IASJ at Amazon.com, will go to a vote on May 27th on customer due diligence. As stakeholders and government use of Amazon products and services, including surveillance, is poised to increase among the coronavirus, it is even more important for investors to assess the effectiveness of Amazon’s oversight of customer use of its products and services to ensure it does not violate human rights.
- As most companies transition their Annual Shareholders Meeting to a virtual meeting format, IASJ encourages companies to follow the guidance available here to ensure that shareholders and stakeholders have a meaningful opportunity to engage with corporate leadership and fellow shareholders.