Shareholder Support Building for Human Rights Proposals at Defense Companies
Faith-based institutions have long led movements calling for peace, demilitarization, and denuclearization. The defense industry continues to profit from business models that cause death and destruction. On a 2021 earnings call, the CEO of defense company Raytheon said, “peace is not going to break out in the Middle East anytime soon. I think it remains an area where we’ll continue to see solid growth.” Increasing military spending and foreign military sales bolster company profits, yet risk global security and perpetuate human rights abuses. In its recent report Complicit: 2020 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) found that in just a year, a dozen defense contractors were paid $27.7 billion to build nuclear weapons, while these companies spent $117 million lobbying policy makers.
“As Catholic religious congregations, in a society struggling with excessive violence, we assert that there is a clear moral responsibility for Lockheed Martin and its investors to acknowledge the direct role that the defense industry plays in perpetuating human rights harms in war and conflict, and that all actors must contribute to appropriate remedies,”
– Sister Nora Nash at the Lockheed Martin shareholder meeting
This proxy season, IASJ supported the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, and Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, NJ, which are investors with small exposure to the defense industry, to engage companies to address critical human rights impacts such as nuclear weapon manufacturing, potential war crimes associated with international weapons sales, business in conflict-affected areas, unregulated surveillance technology, and controversial immigration enforcement. The investors filed shareholder proposals with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, which received 32.2% and 22.3% of shareholder support respectively. The proposals asked for disclosure on human rights impact assessments and human rights due diligence processes to identify, assess, prevent, mitigate, and remedy actual and potential human rights impacts associated with high-risk products and services, including those in conflict-affected areas.
“The nature of Northrop Grumman’s core business as a manufacturer of weapons and defense technologies poses serious risks to the rights to life, freedom from discrimination, privacy, freedom of movement, asylum, and health.”
– Sister Pat Daly, moving the HRIA proposal at Northrop Grumman AGM
IASJ additionally launched engagements with other companies that support the defense industry’s growth, such as banks. Following the groundbreaking Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force on January 22 2021, IASJ supported the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood and the Sisters of the Humility of Mary in filing a shareholder proposal with PNC Financial Services on risks associated with financing nuclear weapons. As This first-time proposal received 7.9% support, signaling that investors are beginning to take note of international norms and corporate connections to the military industrial complex, while Stop Banking the Bomb (SBTB) Pittsburgh has been calling on PNC to stop financing nuclear weapons for years. IASJ also hosted a webinar with SBTB Pittsburgh, American Friends Service Committee, and PAX to bring together investors, experts, and activists to share about this important collective work.
In response to recent violent attacks in Palestine, IASJ led a sign on letter from 36 institutional, faith-based, and individual investors with $22.4 billion in assets under management urging defense companies to fulfill their human rights responsibilities and discontinue the supply of weapons or components used in the military assault in Gaza and East Jerusalem. IASJ will continue to support its Affiliates in the ongoing work with the defense contractors, including Raytheon and General Dynamics, and financiers of nuclear weapons.