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Faith-based investors applauded the decision by PNC Financial Services to stop financing coal company mountaintop removal operations in Appalachia.
The recent announcement by the Pittsburgh-based bank comes after a multi-year effort by members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) to convince bank officials that financing such environmentally damaging operations poses significant financial risks and hastens climate change.
Mountaintop removal mining involves dynamiting the tops of mountains to expose rich coal seams hundreds of feet below ground. The resulting debris is then pushed into adjacent valleys, often blocking important headwater streams.
Lauren Compere, managing director of Boston Common Asset Management, an ICCR partner which led the PNC effort, said conversations with bank officials took place over a four-year period and focused on the role banks can play in transitioning to a low-carbon economy. “When looking at our portfolio, coal mining is one of the red flags. One of the things we talk about with companies more generally is how are we supporting the transition to more sustainable energy sources,” explained Compere, a member of ICCR’s board of directors.
The ICCR effort has focused on the importance of managing risk because financing the coal industry is seen as risky, explained Oblate Father Seamus Finn, Chief of Faith Consistent Investing for the OIP Investment Trust, and ICCR Board Chair, who has been actively engaged with major banks on a variety of issues.
ICCR’s engagement on mountaintop removal mining is part of a broader effort by 80 international institutional investors managing $540 billion in assets to urge 63 banks to disclose their policies and practices related to climate change.
Engaging for Impact March 2nd, 2015
Why Do Faith-based Shareholders Engage Mining Companies?
The Rev. Seamus Finn, OMI was interviewed recently by SUSTAIN, a publication of the International Finance Corporation, a lending arm of the World Bank that focuses exclusively on the private sector. The IFC is interested in how the Church has engaged in recent years with the extractives industry. Fr. Finn has been centrally involved in high-level meetings called by the Vatican and the Archbishop of Canterbury with mining CEOs and faith-based representatives to discuss ways to increase respect for the rights of, and lessen the impact of mining operations, on local communities. He is Director of Faith-Based Investing for the Oblate International Pastoral (OIP) Investment Trust, and Executive Director of the International Interfaith Investment Group (3iG)
Some of the questions asked in the interview are: “Why should the church care about extractives?”, “Why social justice through investment?”, and “Is there a way to secure societal fairness? Is it always a dynamic or is there a sweet spot?”
Walmart Announces Increases in Wages/Opportunities for Walmart Associates February 20th, 2015
The Missionary Oblates JPIC USA and the OIP Trust have been a part of the ongoing conversation that shareholders have sustained with Walmart over many years. In a meeting with Walmart CEO Doug McMillion in 2014, the need to deal with income inequality and the inadequacy of minimum wage levels was on the agenda and openly debated. He listened attentively and participated. Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI, who participated in these dialogs, said: “We are pleased by the announcement that the company has made, because it will make a real difference in the lives of so many individuals and families and hopefully press other companies and the Congress of the United States to address these issues that are real challenges for our society and the future wellbeing of so many families.”
Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and shareholders of Walmart were heartened by Walmart’s announcement on February 19th, of measures it is taking to improve both wages and opportunities for advancement for its 1.3 million U.S. employees.
ICCR members who have long engaged the company on employee wage and benefit issues are hopeful that, as the world’s largest employer, Walmart’s announcement will send a strong signal of the importance of raising wages for U.S. workers. The shareholder coalition has engaged companies in a range of sectors, including agriculture, apparel, consumer goods, restaurant, and technology on similar issues throughout their global supply chains. According to the package of changes the company announced today, Walmart has committed to increasing its base pay rate to $9/hr. in all markets and to raising its current associates’ wages to $10 an hour or higher by early next year. For reference, the current federal minimum wage is $7.25/hr. In addition the company is reforming how schedules are developed for its Associates and investing in capacity-building programs that will provide internal advancement opportunities.
Faith-Based Investors Get Better Governance at JP Morgan Chase December 17th, 2014
The prestigious journal, American Banker, has reported on the success earned by faith-based groups, including the Missionary Oblates, in forcing J.P. Morgan Chase to improve its governance and increase transparency. An article published today reports that before the end of the year, “JPMorgan Chase will release a 100-page report in which it will provide a full accounting of recent legal settlements and matters under investigation and detail, among other things, clawback policies for executives whose business units engage in “unethical” activity. The New York bank will also describe in the report new structures for board accountability and oversight.”
The article adds that “The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility [ICCR] says the report will go a long way toward restoring the bank’s credibility with shareholders following a string of legal skirmishes, including a $13 billion settlement with U.S regulators over the packaging and sale of shoddy mortgages, a $1 billion fine for manipulating the foreign exchange market, and a $920 million fine it paid to authorities for its failure to spot risky trades. As a condition of the report’s release, the faith-based group has agreed to back off from its campaign to split the chairman and CEO jobs.”
The Rev. Seamus Finn, OMI, ICCR Board Chair, was quoted as saying,”We asked [J.P. Morgan Chase] to address all of the issues under which their reputation had been tarnished since the financial crisis, and I think they’ve done a good job.” He added that “It doesn’t mean there won’t be another ‘London whale’ or foreign-exchange trading scandal. But they are putting in place some strong restrictions to make sure these things don’t happen again.”
Fr Seamus Finn, OMI Elected Chair of ICCR Governing Board September 2nd, 2014
Our own Seamus Finn, OMI has been elected Chair of the Governing Board of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. This is an acknowledgement not only of his substantial experience in the field of faith constant and socially responsible investing, but also of the value of his strategic thinking in this area, for ICCR and other faith-based investing initiatives.
Oblates and ICCR Meet with Walmart CEO August 30th, 2014