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ICCR Shareholders Confront Banks Over Recent Scandals December 20th, 2013
The efforts of the Missionary Oblates and other ICCR faith-based shareholders to call the major banks to account in the wake of a flood of legal scandals and regulatory investigations, has won the attention of the media.
An article in the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, highlights the shareholder proposals filed by religious shareholder groups with J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. JPM , Bank of America Corp. BAC and Wells Fargo & Co. WFC asking for a report on “business standards”. The proposal says, “We believe shareholders deserve a full report on what the bank has done to end these unethical activities, to rebuild credibility and provide new strong, effective checks and balances within the bank,” the shareholders write in the Wells Fargo proposal, with similar language for the other two banks. “While press releases describe specific settlements or new reforms, the overall picture has not been reported adequately to shareholders.”
Father Seamus Finn, a board member of ICCR, and a shareholder lead with several of the banks, called the requests “a win-win” for the banks and shareholders, giving them an opportunity to showcase how they’re addressing “the many issues of the day.”
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.
Top US Banks Disappoint in Investor Study November 22nd, 2013
Five years after the crisis that rocked the financial world, seven leading U.S. banks scored a disappointing 60 or fewer out of 100 possible points in a benchmarking study released today by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), which represents 300 faith-based and socially responsible institutional investors with $100 billion in assets under management. The top banks were evaluated in terms of four key shareholder concerns: executive compensation, risk management, responsible lending and investing, and political contributions.
The financial institutions included in the ICCR report are: Goldman Sachs (60, which scored highest on responsible lending and investment and tied for highest on political contribution practices); Bank of New York (59.02, which scored highest on risk management and tied for highest on political contribution practices); JP Morgan Chase (56.5, which tied for highest on political contribution practices); Morgan Stanley (55.40); Bank of America (55.35); Citi (54.90, which tied for highest on political contribution practices): and Wells Fargo (50.73, which scored highest on executive compensation practices.).
Rev. Séamus Finn, director, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and ICCR board vice chair, said: “Five years after the U.S. financial meltdown, some of the banks are beginning to address their risk management protocols, but have much more work to do when it comes to responsible lending and investment. Overall disclosures are also weak, particularly related to both executive compensation and political contributions. What we see in these findings is a somewhat timid group of banks clustered in the average-to-below-average range with no single institution distinguishing itself as a leader for shareholders in the post-financial crisis era.”
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Sr. Barbara Aires, SC and Vidette Bullock Mixon Winners Of ICCR’s 2013 Legacy Award September 18th, 2013
Leaders in shareholder advocacy to be honored at ICCR’s “Breaking the Bonds” event on 9/26 in NYC.
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) has announced the recipients of this year’s Legacy Award. Sr. Barbara Aires SC of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, NJ and Vidette Bullock Mixon of Wespath Investments will be honored at the ICCR annual fundraising event in New York on September 26. The ICCR Legacy Award was created to honor those whose work has provided a strong moral foundation and an enduring record of demonstrated influence on corporate policies.
Vatican Hosts Mining CEO’s in a “Day of Reflection” September 11th, 2013
The CEOs of some of the world’s top mining companies went to the Vatican for a day-long meeting last Saturday to discuss better ways to operate in communities that are increasingly protesting the destructive impacts of mining. Communities are fearful – with good reason – of the impacts of mining on their water, land and air.
Saturday’s “day of reflection with the mining industry,” was organized, at the request of leaders in the mining sector, by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. It included the CEOs of Anglo American, Rio Tinto and Newmont Mining, who alone represented companies with well more than $100-billion (U.S.) in market value. The chairmen, presidents or senior executives of dozens of other companies, ranging from AngloGold Ashanti to African Rainbow Minerals, were also present. Fr. Seamus Finn OMI, from the USP JPIC team in Washington DC, was invited to be a part of the team that prepared the day of reflection and offered input during the day. Pope Francis offered a message of greeting and challenge to the group and offered his prayers and blessings on the event.
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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.”