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Dialogue on Life and Mining from Latin America December 10th, 2013
Religious and Lay representatives from Latin America, “moved by the critical situation of our peoples vis-à-vis the extractive industry”, met in Lima in November 2013. Concerned that mining is a source of “constant and serious conflict” in many countries of Latin and Central American countries, the attendees wanted to develop a vigorous and supportive set of local and international networks to help address the destructive impacts of mining. The Missionary Oblates were represented by Fr. Gilberto Pauwels OMI from Bolivia, and Fr. Seamus Finn OMI from the United States and through their participation in VIVAT, a coalition of religious congregations with ECOSOC status at the United Nations.
There are a number of outcomes from the gathering that included reaching out to a larger number of communities affected by mining, engaging with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican and convening a broader consultation on the challenges of extractives in the second half of 2014.
Extractives, mining oil and gas exploration, play an important role across the world while also imposing great intrusion and damage in local communities and on the environment where they operate. The search for a way forward that addresses the most serious of those negative impacts has been taken up by a number of different initiatives in the academic, business, stakeholder and shareholder and NGO sectors. Hopefully gatherings like the meeting in Lima can make a constructive contribution to that process.
Asia’s Largest Agribusiness Company Adopts Policy to Protect Forests and Communities December 6th, 2013Wilmar, Asia’s largest agribusiness company, commits to No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation, No High Carbon Stock, Traceable Sourcing Policy for both its own plantations and third party suppliers.
Wilmar, Asia’s largest agribusiness company, which controls 45 percent of the global palm oil trade, has issued a new policy to protect forests, respect human rights, and enhance community livelihood. The company joined consumer products’ leader Unilever, in committing to a “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation, No High Carbon Stock, Traceable Sourcing Policy” for both its own plantations and third party suppliers. NGOs working on the issue, led by Climate Advisers and The Forest Trust (TFT), say the initiative has the potential to dramatically cut deforestation and climate pollution, while boosting prosperity.
This policy follows a decade of aggressive and effective advocacy for sustainable and responsible palm oil by nonprofit organizations around the world. Recently, activist shareholders concerned about sustainability issues, including the Missionary Oblates, sent letters asking for policy changes to to 40 major palm oil producers, financiers and consumers including Wilmar, Golden Agri Resources, Unilever, and HSBC. The letters were coordinated by Green Century Capital Management and were signed by major institutional investors from the U.S. and Europe representing approximately $270 billion in assets under management.
The announcement represents a vital new approach for Wilmar International, which in addition to its importance in the palm oil trade, is a significant player in other commodities like sugar and soybeans. The announcement sets a responsible path forward for one of the most environmentally intensive commodities on earth.
Wilmar’s policy on palm oil is available online here.
The policy includes numerous provisions to change the way commodities are sourced:
- No Deforestation: No more cutting down the rainforest for agricultural production.
- No Exploitation: Protect the rights of workers and communities, including the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent.
- Protects High Carbon Stock landscape, including peatlands of any depth.
- Protects High Conservation Value forests: No more clearing of forests that are habitat for endangered species, such as orangutans, Sumatran tigers, elephants, and rhinos.
Palm oil is a $50 billion a year commodity that makes its way into half of all consumer goods on the shelves. It is in chocolate, baked goods, soaps, detergents, and much more. U.S. imports have increased almost fivefold over the past decade. 85 percent of palm oil is grown on industrial plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, home of some of the largest remaining rainforests in the world. Clearing tropical forests for these plantations threatens the world’s last Sumatran tigers, as well as orangutans, elephants, rhinos and the tens of millions of people who depend on these rainforests to survive. Because of deforestation, Indonesia is the third largest emitter of global warming pollution in the world, behind only China and the United States.
VOICE, the northern Virginia community organization that has been addressing housing blight in the region, was highlighted in a Washington Post article recently. The organization has put together the $30 million “Prince William, VA Restoration Fund” from mortgage lenders responsible for a major foreclosure crisis in the area. The fund is designed to address neighborhood blight caused by the foreclosure & predatory loan crisis in town home communities like Georgetown South in Manassas, VA. The Oblates have actively supported VOICE’s efforts to develop this community redevelopment fund through our activist shareholder connections.
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For Nuns and Analysts Alike, Bank Commodity Earnings are a Mystery August 11th, 2013
The Oblates are concerned about the lack of disclosure by banks of their commodities market activities. Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI dialogs on behalf of the Oblates with major financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase. He was quoted extensively in a Chicago Tribune article that does a good job of describing the issue. (Read the article)
“Driven by a determination to invest in a socially conscious way, Finn’s group has been concerned about banks’ commodities activities since 2008, when a spike in energy and agricultural products caused food riots in Africa. The issue is whether banks’ trading activities artificially drive up food prices. … While the country’s largest banks are required to disclose their activities in some consumer-facing businesses such as mortgages, there is no similar requirement for them to do so on the commodities side.”
Missionary Oblates Join Other Institutional Investors in Calling for Comprehensive Immigration Reform May 1st, 2013
Missionary Oblates joined more than 70 institutional investors in a letter calling on Congress to take immediate action and pass common-sense immigration reform. The organizations consist of investors representing $890.5 billion in assets on behalf of major pension funds, non-profit organizations and socially conscious and faith-based investors.
The investors’ letter says, “We believe comprehensive reform must be developed and implemented consistent with the human rights of all concerned, must value the integrity of families and must prevent immigrant workers be they temporary or permanent from being subjected to second-class employment standards.”
Dupont, eBay Asked to Report on Lobbying Expenditures and Activities April 25th, 2013
ICCR shareholders, led by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, filed shareholder proposals at DuPont and eBay, asking that they report on their comprehensive lobbying activities, policies, and oversight mechanisms. The vote garnered 34% at Dupont and 24% at eBay, higher than usual figures.
In 2012, activist investors, coordinated by the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Walden Asset Management in Boston, fostered a campaign calling for disclosure on lobbying activities and policies. Resolutions were submitted at 40 companies, 20 of which came to a vote, averaging 24% shareholder support. This 2013 shareholder proposal is the first time that a shareholder resolution on lobbying activities and policies has been filed at DuPont. The proposal at eBay was apparently irregular, but Management allowed a vote on it.
The proposals were non-binding and requested of the company that it annually report on its lobbying-related activities, policies, and oversight mechanisms. The Dupont proposal called on the company to report on:
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