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Investment Professionals Convene at Marquette University to Discuss Socially Responsible Investing October 10th, 2019
Rev. Séamus Finn, OMI, was the keynote speaker at Marquette’s first symposium on Socially Responsible Investing. Finn’s keynote explored the history of socially responsible investing, drawing on personal stories from his background and work as board chair of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).
The event also sparked fruitful knowledge sharing and networking among Marquette students and faculty, and Milwaukee investment professionals. A wide-ranging panel discussion examined a variety of strategies and challenges on the minds of socially responsible investing practitioners and advocates.
Talk of socially responsible investing permeated campus as Finn guest lectured in Theology and Finance classes during his three-day visit to campus.
Socially Responsible Investing from the 1970’s to today
Finn noted two events as the genesis of the modern movement toward socially responsible investing: apartheid in South Africa and the use of chemical weapons in Vietnam. Shareholder advocacy was the method the ICCR used to combat these injustices. In each of these cases, shareholders demonstrated the ability to influence companies such as General Motors, Ford, and various legacy banks for their role fueling apartheid in South Africa, and Dow Chemical for manufacturing Napalm and Agent Orange used in Vietnam.
Since then, the ICCR has engaged with numerous corporations to improve human rights, food safety and sustainability, environmental health, water safety and sustainability, financial services, and global and domestic health. Though ICCR is not an exclusively Catholic organization, the influence of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) is evident in these priorities. Finn singled out the USCCB’s 1986 Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy titled “Economic Justice for All.”
So, how does ICCR do this? Through a variety of forms of shareholder advocacy, including stockholder resolutions, voting proxies, corporate dialogues, and other strategies.
Some tools Finn offered for promoting socially responsible investing are positive and negative screening, international norms-based screening, proxy voting, integration of environmental, societal, and governmental (ESG) factors, sustainability themed investing, and impact/community investing.
Contemporary issues in Socially Responsible Investing
Finn shared what he sees as some of the most important issues among socially responsible investors today:
- Climate change
- Private prisons
- Access to firearms
- Opioid addiction
- Artificial intelligence and robotics
These are not only concerns within the financial/corporate sector, Finn noted, they are a result of societal concern and shareholder interest. Furthermore, he noted that public interest in climate change is unique in that its impact reaches across all sectors.
Finn concluded his remarks with a poignant statement on what is at stake across all of the issues socially responsible investing targets.Despite the unprecedented standard of living present for most people in the United States, Finn cautioned against simply accepting the United States as a “promised land of political freedom and economic opportunities.” It’s imperative to remember the cost of this, Finn said, as we must recall with a sober humility the bloodshed that has contributed to the prosperity we enjoy today.
The importance of recognizing those who have suffered and working to prevent future suffering is integral to participating in SRI and to promoting peace through the business sector.
Socially Responsible Investing Panel
Following Finn’s speech, the symposium transitioned into a panel of professionals from the Milwaukee area. The panel was moderated by Christopher Merker, an adjunct professor of finance at Marquette who teaches a course on sustainable finance. The panelists were Laura Gough (Baird — Investment Consulting), Nadelle Grossman (Marquette University — Law & Governance), Joe Henzlik (ISS — Sustainability & Governance), Leo Harmon (Mesirow Financial — Asset Management), and Conner Darrow (Marquette University — AIM Student).
They discussed a variety of topics including:
- Individual definitions of SRI
- Screening and the importance of ESG in SRI
- Thoughts on the Business Roundtable
- Fiduciary law and obligations
- Driving forces in SRI
- Using SRI in small/mid-cap funds
- Trends in shareholder engagement
- Linking pay to ESG results
- Fossil fuel divestment
- Actionable ideas to implement SRI
The event concluded with a reception, where the attendees, panelists, and keynote speakers continued to discuss SRI and the variety of implications that it has in the promotion of peace and justice on a local, national, and international level.
The Socially Responsible Investing Symposium was organized by the Center for Peacemaking, College of Business Administration, and Finance Department. The event was sponsored by Baird, CFA Society Milwaukee, Mesirow Financial, Sage Advisory, and Federated Investors.
A Question of Values: Fr. Séamus Finn, OMI among ICCR members interviewed in new film April 8th, 2019
A Question of Values is a 15-minute video produced by Swanson Film – Peter Swanson on the 45+ year history of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).
It tells the compelling story of ICCR and how the organization inspired an investment philosophy that has changed corporate behavior. Throughout history there have been calls to inject moral values into investment strategies, but never has it been done in a more organized and impactful way as is being done by ICCR. From its roots in the anti-apartheid movement to currently representing over 100 billion dollars in assets the organization has pioneered the principles of shareholder engagement.
Read more about the film.
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility’s 2019 Spring Conference is well underway this week and posing for a group photo are ( L to R): Rev. David Schilling, Mr. Sharif Jamil, Ms. Christina Herman & Rev. Seamus Finn, OMI.
Climate Change: ICCR Members Review Past Work and Plan for 2018-19 Corporate Engagement Season July 18th, 2018
By Frank Sherman
The ICCR Climate Change Workgroup met in mid-June, hosted by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, an ICCR member in NYC, to evaluate the progress over the past year and chart out a path forward for the 2018-19 corporate engagement season. We took time to reflect on the social and faith trends; review the political and economic landscape; and map the growing investor actions on climate. We then evaluated our progress over the past couple years before developing a SWOT analysis, mission and vision. In the afternoon, we discussed the path forward by re-directing the existing programs and discussing some new areas to pursue.
Jake Barnett (Morgan Stanley Graystone), together with Mary Beth Gallagher (Tri-State CRI), presented the climate justice perspective by describing the disproportionate adverse impacts climate change has on vulnerable communities. These include decreased agricultural production due to drought resulting in increased migration, disproportionate impacts on women, increased disease burdens due to intensified heat and insect-borne diseases, and displacement from intensified storms due to lack of resilience (e.g. Hurricane Harvey and Maria). In addition, roughly 1.1 billion people lack access to electricity, making the provision of clean, affordable energy essential for communities trying to escape poverty. Unlike secular asset managers, the faith community can elevate climate change from a partisan political discourse to a moral issue that we are all called to address. We need to be bold and exhibit urgency by leveraging partner organizations (Human Rights Watch, Earth Justice, Sierra Club, etc.), and put a human face on the climate change impacts.
Aaron Ziulkowski (Walden Asset) provided the political and economic overview noting that, despite growing awareness, global GHG emissions continue to rise, although they have leveled off in OECD (developed) countries. The national commitments made in Paris fall short of the 2 degree scenario and get the world nowhere near the 1.5 degree ambition. Transportation has replaced electricity production as the top emitter in the U.S. due to the displacement of coal by natural gas. Despite the White House announced withdraw from Paris, several states have set targets for GHG reduction, renewable energy and CAFÉ standards (which reduce auto emissions) that exceed federal standards. Japan, the EU, China and India continue to increase CAFÉ standards while Trump’s EPA rolls back U.S. targets. The EPA is being sued for rolling back methane emissions standards in oil & gas production. Economists are confident that economics wins over politics with the cost of unsubsidized wind and solar electrical power now competitive with fossil fuels. We agreed to step up public advocacy and pressure corporations to do the same if the U.S. wants to remain competitive in a low carbon world.
By Christopher Cox, Human Thread Campaign
Two weeks ago, Frank Sherman and I participated in the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) Program Strategy Week. The Program Directors met with their Work groups in NYC to evaluate the progress over the past year and chart out a path forward for the 2018-19 corporate engagement season. This article will summarize the human rights/human trafficking session.
Estimates indicate that 27 million victims fall prey to trafficking and slavery each year and that it is a global trade valued at $32 billion dollars. But due to the clandestine nature of these crimes and the reluctance of victims to speak out because they live in fear of physical retribution and/or deportation, trafficking and slavery are typically very difficult to uncover and prosecute. Through the Human Rights/Human Trafficking (HR/HT) Work Group, ICCR members ask the companies they hold to adopt human rights policies that formally recognize human trafficking and slavery and to train their personnel and their suppliers to safeguard against these risks throughout their supply chains. Human rights provides an umbrella for all ICCR efforts.
The day prior to our session, the Alliance met as well. It will take some time to define action that corresponds to IAHR or to the HR/HT work group as both groups are concerned with issues that overlap. The Alliance has three components: Human rights responsibilities of investors, collective action, and multi-stakeholder engagement.
- Promotes implementation of human rights due diligence by companies
- Encourages the creation of enabling environment for responsible business conduct through awareness raising, standard setting, and regulatory development – states, multi-lateral institutions, the UN, development banks and, of course, investors
- Encourages engaged companies to develop and strengthen activities and process to provide remedy
- Builds partnerships with business community, NGOs, trade unions, local communities and others to leverage this work
It seems likely that the IAHR will focus, this year, on Banking and Tech sectors as it relates to salient human rights issues. Again, it will take some time to develop the necessary coordination between the efforts of IAHR and ICCR working groups.
Read the rest of the article at Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investing’s website.
Fr Séamus Finn and ICCR members attend Faith and Finance Conference in Zug, Switzerland November 2nd, 2017
Fr Séamus Finn OMI, chair of the board of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, recently addressed the Faith and Finance Conference, hosted at the LaSalle Haus in Zug, Switzerland. In his remarks, Fr Séamus talked briefly about the origins of ICCR more than 45 years ago and the historic legacy that the organization, through its more than 300 faith-based institutional investors, have achieved through a strategy of consistent substantive engagement with publicly traded corporations.
This engagement strategy is rooted in the rights and responsibilities that all investors assume when they invest in corporations, informed through the extensive networks that faith traditions have throughout the world and guided by the moral and ethical principles that are grounded in the teachings of their respective traditions. Over the past 45 years, ICCR members and colleagues have been at the forefront of drawing attention to the consequences of many destructive and dangerous products and abusive policies and been successful in recalling corporations to their social purpose, providing avenues for advocacy and redress to victims, and awakening the conscience of other shareholders.
The conference in Zug was a unique opportunity to share this story with representatives of many faith institutions and organizations from diverse traditions around the world and to discuss avenues for increased strategic collaboration.