Acton Institute Powerblog

As You Sow’s Grim Reaping

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Religious groups seeking to serve myriad liberal agendas during the 2013 shareholder proxy resolution season look no further than As You Sow, a group dedicated to “large-scale systemic change by establishing sustainable and equitable corporate practices.”

AYS will unveil its Proxy Preview on March 7. Trumpeted as the “Bible for socially progressive foundations, religious groups, pension funds, and tax-exempt organizations” by the Chicago Tribune, this year’s preview predictably includes such “issues” as hydraulic fracturing; e-waste recycling; waste disposal; and pushing coal-fired utilities to adopt more stringent environmental standards than required by law.

Nowhere does AYS mention companies’ fiscal responsibility to return profits to shareholders. Neither does it mention how adherence to these progressive shibboleths might negatively impact the world’s most economically disadvantaged by reducing corporate profitability.

AYS boasts on its website include: “We build coalitions with shareholder allies including socially responsible investors (SRIs), pension funds, labor groups, foundations, and faith-based investor communities.” Whatever specialized knowledge these investors bring to the table regarding natural gas drilling and waste management technologies is left to the readers’ respective imaginations.

As to the involvement of faith-based investors, one can only assume AYS is doubling down on its New Testament-inspired moniker to grant itself moral authority on issues that are purely technical in nature. For example, AYS outlines its 2013 Energy Program thusly:

Oil and gas giants ExxonMobil and Chevron will face a proposal for quantitative risk management reporting on the companies’ hydraulic fracturing activities.  The resolution will ask for the reporting of the results of all company procedures and practices, above and beyond regulatory requirements, to minimize the adverse environmental and community impacts from the company’s shale energy operations.

As noted previously, hydraulic fracturing has been vetted extensively by state and local governments, and has been deployed since the late 1940s with no significant hazards to either the environment or human health. The benefits from increased domestic natural gas production, however, have proven a tremendous boon to the U.S. economy and employment.

Increasing the costs of hydraulic fracturing, however, more than certainly will negatively impact corporate and shareholder profits, drive up costs for natural gas customers and kill jobs – these last two afflicting our nation’s most economically disadvantaged.

Whilst AYS takes its name from Scripture to myopically pursue progressive causes that would most assuredly hurt the poor, it may be better served by remembering Matthew 25:40, which advises: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Bruce Edward Walker has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. Most recently, he was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2007 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past three years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Midland, Mich., with his wife Katherine.

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