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Water is integral to all life on Earth and responsible water stewardship within corporations is essential to protect this scarce resource.  Investor Advocates for Social Justice has long engaged companies on mitigating the negative impacts of business operations on water quality, promoting respect for the Human Right to Water, and encouraging companies to take steps to fulfill Sustainable Development Goal 6. The Human Right to Water framework informs our strategy – urging companies to take steps to ensure they do not interfere with the right of everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.

We currently engage companies in the food and beverage, agricultural commodities, mining, and oil and gas sectors on water stewardship. IASJ strives to raise awareness among corporations and shareholders about the increasing scarcity of water resources, to ensure that corporations take responsible actions to limit and restrict the pollution and overuse of water, and to address issues of control and privatization. Through resolutions and dialogues, Tri-State CRI members have advocated for improved corporate water disclosure and risk management, including water risk mapping, developing and implementing Human Right to Water policies, establishing water use reduction goals, and adopting comprehensive water stewardship plans to address water pollution.

Food & Beverage

Focus Companies – Tyson Foods, Hormel Foods, Hershey

Water quality in the meat sector continues to be an engagement priority this year. On behalf of the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS), Investor Advocates for Social Justice re-filed a resolution with Tyson Foods asking the company to adopt a water stewardship policy. IASJ also leads a dialogue with Hormel Foods to follow up on the implementation of their water stewardship policy, which was adopted as a result of our investor engagement. Water stewardship is also a component of our ongoing dialogue with Hershey.

Agriculture Commodities

Focus Company – ADM

Water stewardship is one of the focus areas of the sustainable agriculture dialogue we lead with ADM. Investors continue to encourage the company to assess water risks in the supply chain, engage with more growers on water stewardship, and follow up on water risk mapping. We were pleased to see ADM recently incorporate the Right to Water in their revised Human Rights Policy, which we encouraged in our engagement.

Shareholder engagements focused on increasing public disclosure on water stewardship have also been successful. IASJ engagements with Tyson and ADM prompted both corporations to begin reporting to CDP Water on their water risk management.

Oil and Gas

Focus Company – Chevron

IASJ supports an engagement led by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia with Chevron on the community impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Investors continue to urge the company to adopt a Human Right to Water Policy and encourage more meaningful stakeholder engagement to include community voices.

Mining

Focus Company – Newmont Mining

On behalf of our client the Fetzer Institute, we engage on responsible water stewardship and encourage consultation with community stakeholders to assess the impact of operations on water resources and to ensure adequate steps are taken to minimize competition for water and reduce risks of contamination.

Investor Advocates for Social Justice takes a holistic approach to promoting food justice and sustainable agriculture, working to address both the environmental and social aspects of sustainable food production. Our current focus areas include antibiotics in meat production, deforestation and ethical recruitment, food waste, and increasing access to nutrition.

ANTIBIOTICS

Focus Company – Hormel Foods

As consumer and public awareness around the risks of overuse of antibiotics increases, IASJ believes that companies have a responsibility to responsibly use antibiotics in their operations and to adapt their business to remain competitive in a changing consumer environment. We participate in a long-standing dialogue with other ICCR members with Hormel Foods addressing the issue of antibiotic use in meat production. Hormel recently adopted an Antibiotic Stewardship Statement as a result of investor engagement. The company also acquired an antibiotic free line of pork, Applegate Farms. Investors continue to work with Hormel on ways to improve antibiotic stewardship and reduce the negative consequences on human health associated with overuse of antibiotics.

DEFORESTATION & ETHICAL RECRUITMENT

Focus Company – ADM

The production of commodities such as palm oil, soy, cattle, and timber is a major driver of deforestation in the Amazon and the Cerrado, negatively impacting the land and community livelihoods. Workers in these supply chains are also at risk of unethical recruitment practices and other human rights violations. IASJ engages with ADM on the cross-sections between these two issues. Our advocacy led ADM to adopt a Human Rights Policy in 2014, (which was updated in 2017), including specific reference to ethically recruiting workers throughout its supply chain, and IASJ has monitored the implementation of this policy since that time.  Work with ADM has also focused on deforestation in its soybean and palm oil supply chains, where ADM has worked to establish “traceability” in these supply chains to identify and eliminate deforestation. We also encourage the company to use and disseminate best management practices to reduce the harmful impacts of agriculture on soil and water.

FOOD WASTE

Focus Company – Cracker Barrel

We engage on food waste because each year, approximately 40% of food produced in the U.S. — nearly 133 billion pounds, or $165 billion dollars’ worth — goes uneaten. This is an area of concern because of the widespread hunger and malnutrition throughout the world, as well as the negative climate impacts to grow food that goes uneaten. On behalf of the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS) IASJ supports an engagement with Cracker Barrel on limiting food waste. The goal of this engagement is to encourage the company to optimally manage food waste and to increase its disclosure.  Investors joined a call to introduce the issue to the company and potential ways to improve practices, such as introducing smaller portions, tracking food waste systematically, and developing more strategic food donation systems.

NUTRITION

IASJ supports efforts led by ICCR on nutrition to address the contrasting public health issues of malnutrition and obesity. Focus areas include increasing access to healthy food options and responsible marketing to children. ICCR members have taken a sector-wide approach to address access to nutrition by engaging companies in the following sectors: food and beverage, restaurants, retail, and media. Engagement asks may range from adopting a nutrition policy to adjusting menu offerings for children.

IASJ seeks to promote respect for human rights throughout corporate operations, including in owned and operated facilities and throughout their global supply chains.  This work includes encouraging companies to assess human rights risks that are relevant to their operations and to adopt a Human Rights Policy that applies throughout their operations and is included in Supplier Codes of Conduct or in supplier contracts.  These policies should incorporate the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and International Labor Organization’s core labor conventions.  Investors encourage companies to implement these policies through robust communications and training initiatives and then to monitor implementation through independent monitoring. We encourage companies to be transparent about these efforts and to publish updates in reports to shareholders, communities, and the public.

These important policies are important to address issues related to forced labor; child labor; unjust working conditions; living conditions; quality of life in the environment within and surrounding the factory and patterns of work migration.

A key priority of this work includes encouraging companies to adopt a “No Fees” policy to reduce the risks of forced labor through recruitment processes. The key pillars of a No Fees policy include (1) not charging fees to workers and/or reimbursing workers for fees, (2) not withholding identity documents and (3) providing workers with a contract in a language which they can read. Learn more here.

WE ENCOURAGE COMPANIES TO:
  1. Assess risks of human rights violations throughout their operations, including with suppliers
  2. Adopt and implement comprehensive human rights policies
  3. Agree to internal and independent monitoring of the policies
  4. Demonstrate compliance and remediation actions
  5. Report on the results of the implementation of human rights policies to all stakeholders
COMPANIES THAT WE ENGAGE IN THIS AREA INCLUDE:
  • ADM
  • The Hershey Company
  • Ford Motor Company
  • General Motors
  • Kroger Co.
  • Tyson Foods

Impact Story:
Corporate Actions to Address Child Labor in Cocoa Production: Case Study – The Hershey Company

In addition, IASJ also engages with relevant companies in the travel and tourism sector so that their employees  may be prepared to identify and properly respond to the red flags associated with sex trafficking. Investors encourage companies to become signatories to the ECPAT Code and to monitor their implementation related to the code.

In 2014, IASJ supported efforts to raise awareness of the risks of human trafficking associated with major sporting events during the Super Bowl, hosted at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.  

DOMESTIC HEALTH

Since 2007, Investor Advocates for Social Justice members have taken the need for health care reform to the corporate arena.  Long before  the passage of the Affordable Care Act, we successfully called on companies to adopt principles on health care reform and support access to quality health care that is

  • universal
  • continuous
  • affordable to individuals and families
  • affordable and sustainable for society.

These principles have formed the heart of our shareholder engagements with pharmaceutical companies for many years.  In our advocacy work with pharmaceutical companies, we encourage the development of a new, sustainable business model that would not be dependent on the high prices of new medicines and yearly high price increases of branded medicines already on the market. Believing that transparency can have an impact on restraining price increases (enabling more patients to have access to needed medicines), we call for greater disclosure of drug pricing policies and strategies.

2017-2018 DRUG PRICING ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY

An April 2017 report from Credit Suisse stated:  “US drug price rises contributed 100% of [pharmaceutical] industry EPS [Earnings per Share] growth in 2016.  Arguably, this is the most important issue for a Pharma investor today.” In an effort to find out how or whether executive compensation policies and practices are linked to the way companies price their medicines, faith-based shareholders filed proposals with 5 pharmaceutical companies that asked them  to disclose the extent to which risks related to public concern over drug pricing strategies are integrated into incentive compensation policies, plans and programs for senior executives. The proposal was filed at the following companies: AbbVie; Amgen; Biogen; Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly.

Pfizer and Vertex received another proposal asking the companies to report on the business risks from rising pressure to contain drug price increases in the US.  Pfizer was successful in its request to the Securities and Exchange Commission to omit the proposal from its proxy statement.

INVESTORS FOR OPIOID ACCOUNTABILITY

ICCR members joined with a new coalition, Investors for Opioid Accountability, to file shareholder resolutions and engage in dialogues with opioid distributors and manufacturers on issues of board oversight of business risks related to opioids.

Opioid manufacturers and distributors have come under heightened legal and legislative scrutiny over whether they failed to adequately disclose the addictive potential of opioids or failed to report suspicious spikes in the sale or distribution of opioids to drug enforcement authorities as mandated under federal law.

Investors for Opioid Accountability, made up of 42 faith-based investors, state pension funds, union pension funds and socially responsible investment asset managers, promotes corporate transparency and fairness, responsible marketing, greater oversight of opioid distribution, and improved governance to better address the opioid crisis.

Also, investors in the manufacturers of drugs to treat opioid overdoses and addiction seek greater affordability of and access to these treatments.  For example, the price of an injectable version of the generic naloxone, has increased 129% since 2012 (made by Pfizer’s subsidiary Hospira) and more than 500% since 2014 by the manufacturer Evzio.

Investors for Opioid Accountability are addressing the following companies:

  • Opioid manufacturers:  Depomed, Endo, J&J, Insys and Mallinckrodt.  (J&J and Mallinckrodt have recently sold their opioid businesses)
  • Treatment and addiction recover:  Amphastar, Indivior, Mylan and Pfizer
  • Drug distributors: AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson

At the March 2, 2018 shareholder meeting of AmerisourceBergen, 62% of independent voters supported a proposal calling for an independent report on steps taken to manage risks related to the opioid crisis.  Walgreens holds 26% percent of AmerisourceBergen; taking those shares into account, the proposals received a vote of 41%.

GLOBAL HEALTH

Many of our affiliate organizations play a critical role in providing access to health care in vulnerable communities in the United States and around the world. A number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals are tied to health and well-being, and corporations have a role to play in helping the world achieve these goals.

Access to essential medicines is a moral imperative and a human right. As shareholders in major pharmaceutical companies, we bring the realities of these communities into our shareholder dialogues, as we call for greater access and affordability to medicines to treat neglected tropical diseases, TB, HIV/AIDS and malaria – as well as chronic diseases that are affecting more and more people in the developing world. We urge companies to expand their research and development activities to develop life-saving treatments for neglected patients. We also are in dialogue with the major vaccine manufacturers to advocate that safe vaccines are made available and affordable in low and middle-income countries.

AbbVie, Bristol Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer, Roche and Sanofi are among the companies we engage on this critical issue.

In line with Investor Advocates for Social Justice’s concern with the role of corporations in society at large, we support efforts to increase transparency in corporate lobbying and political spending. This is of particular concern since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, which removed most legal restrictions on corporate political spending.  Beyond political spending, corporations influence the political process through direct lobbying and financial donations to lobbying and trade associations such as the Chamber of Commerce and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

While such activities often support legitimate business concerns, such as tax policy or tort reform, the outsized role of corporations in the political process can skew legislative priorities and lead to regulatory capture, harming society at large.  Climate change is one are in particular where corporate lobbying and political spending has stymied legislative and regulatory efforts to address the challenge.

IASJ engages in this area primarily through proxy voting in support of shareholder proposals seeking increased transparency in corporate lobbying and political spending.  We also engage directly with companies on these issues, especially as they intersect with climate change, discussing lobbying with a number of fossil fuel companies. IASJ’s dialogue with Ford Motor Company also contributed to the corporation’s decision to discontinue its funding of ALEC, which opposes renewable energy and has promoted climate denial.

With a longstanding concern about ethics in banking and access to capital for the underserved, IASJ envisions a financial services sector that serves the needs of all, including the environment, and provides a financial system that is safe and reliable for generations.   We focus on issues such as greater transparency, accountability and, particularly since the 2008 financial crisis, risk management and oversight.

In 2012, we participated in an effort of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the research firm Sustainalytics to assess the transparency and performance of seven large banks in regards to risk management, responsible lending, executive compensation and political contributions.  The results of the Bank Survey led us to call on banks to review and revise their business standards, including their risk management and lending policies and procedures.

As a result, JP Morgan Chase developed a report entitled, “How We Do Business”, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs undertook business standards review, Wells Fargo revised its Visions and Values statement, and Citigroup established a Board Committee on Ethics and Culture.  We continue our shareholder engagements with banks and monitor the changes they have made, in order to see if their initiatives have made them more accountable and socially responsible.

Investor Advocates for Social Justice supports the work of the ICCR member group asking gun manufacturers, retailers, and companies with financial ties to the industry to take action to address the root causes of gun violence in the United States. IASJ and many individual members signed onto ICCR’s Investor Statement on Gun Violence released on March 29, 2018. An excerpt of the statement can be found below and a full list of signatories is available here.

“In light of continuing gun violence and mass shootings in the U.S. involving semi-automatic assault weapons, the undersigned investors representing $634 billion in assets are calling on gun manufacturers, retailers and distributors, as well as companies with financial ties to these industries, to review their operations, supply chains and policies and take meaningful action on this public safety concern.

As we reel from the latest mass shooting in Parkland, Florida where 17 students and teachers lost their lives at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, we are mindful of the sobering statistics detailing the gun violence epidemic in the U.S.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 33,000 people die each year in firearm-related deaths in the U.S.  On an average day, 96 Americans are killed by guns, including seven children and teens. Meanwhile, the racial justice implications of gun violence are especially pronounced as black men are 13 times more likely than white men to be shot and killed with guns.

Gun violence in the U.S. is both a public health and human rights crisis with extraordinary and escalating human and economic costs. A Johns Hopkins University study revealed the annual cost of care for victims of gun violence is an average of $2.8 billion in emergency-room and inpatient charges alone; when lost wages are factored in, the financial burden rises to $45 billion annually.

While we believe that sensible gun control legislation and enforcement is needed to help halt the wave of senseless gun tragedies, progress has been stalled at the federal level in large part due to an aggressive NRA lobby. Corporations, therefore, have an important role to play both to ensure that they are not indirectly complicit in these lethal events, and in advancing the solutions that may help prevent them.  While the business case for companies to reduce their exposure to this issue is clear, the moral case for action grows more urgent each day.  We therefore ask companies to carefully reflect on how their operations, business relationships, supply chain policies, marketing practices and public voices might be used to counter gun violence and foster safer communities.”

CRI Member Statements on Gun Violence:
Franciscan Sisters of Allegany Corporate Stance
Statement on Gun Control Legislation by the Dominican Sisters in Committed Collaboration (OPSCC)

Examples of companies making positive commitments to address the corporate influence on gun violence:
Dick’s Sporting GoodsWalmart, and Kroger each raised the age restriction for the purchase of guns in their stores to 21 years of age, among other individual commitments. Citi is instituting a new U.S. Commercial Firearms Policy. Several additional companies have ended ties with the NRA.

The role of ICCR members in influencing corporations to take action:
Dick’s Sporting Goods decided on assault-rifle ban after student protests and a meeting with nuns
Episcopal Church, Catholic nuns advocated for Dick’s gun policy