Investor Advocates for Social Justice

Response to ADL and JLens’ Exempt Solicitations

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April 16, 2024                                                                                                                                   – Investor Advocates for Social Justice

Inspired by Pope Francis’s encyclicals, Laudato Si’ and Laudate Deum, we are committed to an integrated approach that confronts the planet’s social and environmental crises through economic ministry. This mission involves building a coalition across faiths and harnessing diverse religious insights to forge a more inclusive and comprehensive path forward. Through this collaboration, we address the interconnected challenges of human rights abuses, socioeconomic disparities, and environmental degradation. It is important to clarify that our actions are led by our commitment to love, peace, and our mission to promote justice, and responsible investing.

We express profound disappointment that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and JLens issued public critiques without awaiting the publication of our exempt solicitation. This premature response has, regrettably, led to a profound mischaracterization of the intent and substance of the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s and the American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ shareholder proposals, calling on RTX (formerly called Raytheon) to conduct a Human Rights Impact Assessment and urging Amazon to review its customer due diligence processes, respectively. A more thoughtful review of our proposal could have provided a clearer and more robust explanation of its purpose and the rationale behind why we believe it warrants shareholder support. Unfortunately, the proposals were criticized for issues such as BDS and the delegitimization of Israel, topics which our proposals do not encompass.

Antisemitism poses a significant threat to the human rights of Jewish communities worldwide. The escalation of hate crimes against Jews in the United States and internationally demands urgent attention and stronger protective measures. However, it is crucial to accurately differentiate between criticism of the Israeli government’s policies and practices and antisemitism to prevent the misapplication of the term. Additionally, it is essential for RTX and Amazon shareholders to remain objective about the present and future material human rights risks associated with their investments, ensuring that decision making is informed and responsible in the context of global standards.

We urgently call on Wall Street and investors to engage deeply with the content of the RTX and Amazon  proposals and the Exempt Solicitations. The ADL’s mischaracterization of this initiative as a BDS movement underscores the necessity for a closer, informed review to grasp its intention to promote ethical investments and align business operations with global human rights standards, especially the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

For several decades, Catholic Sisters, particularly the School Sisters of Notre Dame, have championed peace and demilitarization worldwide. Their dedication reflects the mandates of Laudato Si’ to advance peace, human dignity, and an ecology-centered economy. They rightfully express profound concerns over the ethical implications of ongoing weapon and technology sales by firms like RTX in areas with reported human rights violations. It is their moral and fiduciary duty to call for transparency and ethical conduct in defense-related business practices.

We recognize the challenge of balancing immediate and legitimate security needs with the pursuit of long-term peace. We support nuanced approaches to peacebuilding that honor the protective purpose of these technologies while pursuing sustainable, forward-thinking strategies. However, we believe that adherence to the UNGPs, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and both international humanitarian and human rights law – emphasizing transparency, remedy, and risk mitigation to effectively address human rights and climate and environmental related risks – is imperative to this objective.

Additionally, reputable reporting of human rights abuses and indiscriminate harm, particularly to children in areas where these weapons and technologies are deployed, warrant severe scrutiny of RTX and Amazon policies and practices. Both companies sell weapons and defense technologies that may be used to violate International Humanitarian Law or carry out human rights violations. When these incidents trigger the involvement of international bodies like the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice, the severity of these concerns is apparent. Accordingly, all RTX and Amazon investors should consider the broader implications to their investment if the companies fail or refuse to adequately assess these and mitigate present and potential human rights risks.

The IASJ team, along with our community of Women Religious and interfaith investors, invites believers and investors from all faiths and spiritual traditions to join our mission. Echoing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we affirm that true peace is not merely the absence of conflict but the active presence of justice and ecological harmony. Through our freedom of religion, we exercise the right to pursue ethical investment and stewardship practices that reflect our deepest values, calling out injustices even when no one else will. We are committed to fostering a world that advances a just transition where defensive measures are rendered unnecessary, replaced by proactive peacebuilding, mutual respect, and effective human rights and environmental risk mitigation. This mission reinforces our collective responsibility to foster investments that promote peace and preserve the dignity of all communities, particularly those most vulnerable to the effects of conflict and environmental destruction.

We also urge faith leaders across all spectrums to critically assess the impacts of extremism in all forms and cultivate spiritual disciplines that elevate humanity towards its highest potential. In these challenging times, the world needs beacons of love, healing, and care for our shared humanity more than ever—lighthouses that do not merely stand on shores, but actively guide us through turbulent waters toward a future of greater unity and respect.