Oblates Active in ICCR AGM in Boston
June 10th, 2012
The Oblates participated in the Annual General Meeting of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) that met at Simmons College in Boston from June 4-8. The corporate engagements over the last proxy season were evaluated – with successes celebrated, and plans laid for the 2012-2013 season. Areas in which the Oblates are active include: access to finance, extractives, global access to health, water, human trafficking, toxic chemicals, corporate governance and supply chain (labor) issues. John Ruggie, Professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School and the UN Special Rapporteur behind the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business was honored at a reception Wednesday evening.
The work on the financial services sector continues to be a high priority for ICCR members and has generated significant media attention. Resolutions and statements by religious investors continue to draw attention to the extensive moral and ethical responsibilities that corporate actors in this space assume. The enduring impact of the destruction of nearly 17 trillion dollars of wealth since the near financial meltdown of September 2008 is a clear justification of the need for such vigilance. This work by ICCR members has strongly supported the efforts of numerous homeowners in places like the San Fernando Valley CA and Prince William County in VA to stay in their homes and restore their communities.
In Peru, Bolivia, Indonesia, Congo and other countries, local communities are fighting for control of their land and are protesting the toxic pollution of their water and air as a result of activities of extractives corporations. The Oblates, with others, continue to take the cries and complaints of these communities into on-going dialogues with global mining companies in an effort to improve the relationship of these corporations with local stakeholders. Jobs, security, safety and good corporate citizenship are central issues in nearly all extractive sites. Attentiveness to local cultures and diverse indigenous traditions is often ignored when corporate headquarters sets a policy that fails to respect such diverse situations.
Water is an issue of growing importance around the world, but particularly in areas of water stress. The Oblates have been very active in dialogues with corporations around water. These have ranged from encouraging companies to measure and reduce their water use, to greater transparency in reporting their water use, to adoption of a formal policy recognizing the UN Human Right to Water, now part of international law. ICCR members have developed several documents to guide this work, which include ICCR’s Statement of Principles and Recommended Practices for Corporate Water Stewardship, Toward Water Disclosure: Recommended Process Tools. ICCR has also developed a detailed set of benchmarks against which members can evaluate corporate action related to this most essential of resources. Those active in the water work plan to articulate what a corporate human right to water policy statement ought to include, in order to be meaningful. The human right to water and community impacts of corporate water use will be a major focus for the water group in the coming year.
ICCR members continue to press pharmaceutical companies on access to their medicines among the poor in middle-income as well as low-income countries around the globe. The Oblates are engaged in this work and joined in encouraging companies with HIV-AIDS drug patents to participate in the UNITAID Patent Pool; Gilead Sciences joined in June of 2011, and there is hope that at least one other company will join this summer. The MPP would allow novel formulations of fixed dose combinations to be developed, and has generated unprecedented transparency of the licensing agreements, which are documents usually unavailable to non-participants.
Another issue is the price of essential medicines for the poor in low and middle-income countries alike. Pharmaceutical companies see emerging markets – India, China, Brazil and the like – as the next big opportunity for growth in their business. ICCR members remain concern about access as well as availability. It has become clear that governmental funding mechanisms like GAVI (Global Access Vaccine Initiative), the Global Fund and the Clinton Foundation – by providing advanced market commitments – have stimulated the provision of vaccines and drugs for HIV AIDS in the developing world. There is still a need for pediatric formulations for babies born with HIV, something that is now rare in developed countries, but all too common in Africa. The lack of a large market demand has made these difficult-to-produce formulations even slower to come out of the pharmaceutical company laboratories.
The ICCR group working on Human Trafficking has focused on airlines and hotels, through which victims are transported and housed. The group also focuses on large sports and entertainment events like the Super Bowl, the Olympics and the World Cup. A number of success stories in this arena are an important part of the growing ICCR legacy.