Category: News and Events

Have you been inspired and influenced by the Acton Institute’s film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles? What have you learned? How has it changed your perspective on work, culture, and whole-life discipleship?

As Evan Koons explains, we’re interested in hearing your stories:

Your story may get used in a blog post or a video, and if it does, you may even get some free stuff! (more…)

wolf-in-sheepOver at GreenBiz last week, reporter Keith Larson profiled Andrew Behar, chief executive officer of shareholder activist group As You Sow. In the article, Behar attempts to rebrand AYS activities as “advocacy investment.”

 For some capital market watchers, the term “activist investor” may bring to mind corporate raiders such as Carl Icahn or Bill Ackman.

That’s why Andrew Behar, CEO of the nonprofit As You Sow, prefers to call social and environmental activist investors something a little more aspirational: “advocacy investors.”

In the absence of large-scale government regulation to force the issue of sustainability with corporate executives, some investors have taken it upon themselves to try to force companies to change. One way these shareholders are advocating change is through filing shareholder proposals or resolutions.

Sure, whatever. To-may-to, to-mah-to and all that. So, it seems, these activists…errrr…advocacy investors at As You Sow are working in cahoots with yet another group of advocacy investors, Arjuna Capital. Puffing its activities as “Enlightened Engagement in the Capital Markets,” Arjuna celebrates its partnership with AYS that introduced resolutions that would force Chevron Corp. and ExxonMobil Corporation to return capital to shareholders rather than invest it in fossil fuels, which, you know, is kind of both companies’ core business. (more…)

senior-prom-gameIt’s prom season, the time of year when plenty of high school kids eagerly anticipate an invitation to the year’s biggest formal event. It’s no different for the member organizations of religious shareholder activist groups As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Both groups have their tuxedos pressed and dresses tailored for this summer’s highly anticipated climate encyclical from Pope Francis, the progressive left’s version of netting either Kate Upton or Ryan Gosling as prom dates.

In the meantime, ICCR and AYS – who, quite frankly, don’t seem to really care what Pope Francis or any of his predecessors have to say about any topic unless it fits progressive dogma – continue their crusade against fossil fuels while they await the Pope’s invitation to the big dance.

It seems both groups wish to hobble corporations in the name of global warming. Just last month, for example, ICCR released its latest paper, “Invested in Change: Faith-Consistent Investing in a Climate-Challenged World.” From the document’s Executive Summary: (more…)

As You Sow (AYS), a shareholder activist group, was rebuffed last month in a move to curtail the use of Abbott Laboratories’ genetically modified organisms in its Similac Soy Isomil infant formulas. The defeat of the resolution marks the third year Abbott shareholders voted down an AYS effort to limit and/or label GMO ingredients by significant margins. This year’s resolution reportedly garnered only 3 percent of the shareholder vote.

Such nuisance resolutions fly in the face of the facts: GMOs have been found to be completely safe and, further, benefit the environment by increasing crop yields, thereby reducing the land area required for farming, as well as significantly reducing the need for pesticides. Try telling that to the AYS activists, whose 2015 Abbott resolution states:

 Shareholders request the Board of Directors publish within six months, at reasonable cost and excluding proprietary information, a report on genetically engineered ingredients contained in nutritional products sold by Abbott. This report should list Abbott product categories that contain GMOs and estimated portion of products in each category that contain GMOs, and discuss any actions management is taking to reduce or eliminate GMOs from its products, until and unless long-term studies show that the genetically engineered crops and associated farming practices are not harmful to the environment, the agriculture industry, or human or animal health.

“The full story is that GMOs are having a significant environmental impact and no agency is monitoring for health effects,” fretted Margaret Weber, corporate responsibility director at the Congregation of St. Basil of Toronto, an AYS member, one year ago. “In fact, monitoring for health impacts is nearly impossible because in the US, where the vast majority of GMOs are grown and consumed, there is no labeling.” (more…)

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François Michelin

François Michelin (1926-2015), former leader of the the world’s second-largest tire maker, died early today at the age of 88. Michelin was actively involved in the French tire company, Group Michelin, until 2002, driving unprecedented growth for the company. His “passion for innovation” and “his uncompromising attention to quality” no doubt caused the tire company to thrive. Automotive News reported a statement from current Group Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard: “On behalf of the Group’s employees, I would like to pay special tribute to this exceptional man who was universally respected for his values, his convictions, and his vision.”

“He was one of the greatest French industrialists in the postwar years,” said French President François Hollande in a statement. “He understood the importance of innovation and of long-term industrial development. By developing the radial tire, he transformed a family and regional company into one of the biggest French groups and one of its best-known.”

Author of And Why Not? Morality and Business, Michelin was a devout Catholic whose faith played a huge role in his management and leadership. In 2002, he sat down with R&L and discussed many things, including his understanding of “work:”:

This question was once put to a little girl. She answered, “To work is to build.” What does it mean to build? To give yourself a target that you want to reach. It is finding materials to build a house—or producing tires. You think that you are building a family or a company. But, in the final analysis, it is yourself that you are building. In my own personal case, I believe I am working all the time. To work for a business is to always keep its objectives in mind, to assimilate anything that can help you clarify them, and to find the means to achieve them. It is also to ask yourself why things are the way they are. When you have properly understood the reason that things are what they are, you know how to make use of them. Reasoning by analogy is a marvelous tool. Quite often, different phenomena have something in common that connects them—an underlying, primary cause that allows you to understand a lot of things. You may merely be watching someone sweep the street, and you can be struck suddenly by an idea that will allow you to improve the machines that you use to make tires.

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In his review of the Acton Institute’s film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, Andy Crouch noted its artistic merits, observing how well it conveyed “deeply Christian themes in widely accessible ways.”

“I can only hope that many of us will indeed watch and learn,” he writes, “and that we will then give ourselves away, as skillfully, promptly, and sincerely as these filmmakers have done, for the life of the world.”

Now, in response to the series, other artists are joining in on that endeavor. Inspired by each episode, Kayla Waldron, artist and founder and creator of PennyHouse Creative, has created some beautiful chalk art to capture the major themes of the series. Both individually and taken together, the pieces aptly illustrate the grand design and beauty of God’s economy of all things.

She’s been sharing them on her Instagram and Facebook feeds, and I’ve re-posted them below for your enjoyment.

Episode 1: Exile

Episode-1---Everything-Is-a-Gift

Episode 2: The Economy of Love (more…)

This past week, The Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal offered up a piece of agitprop masquerading as trenchant political analysis. It seems – well, not seems inasmuch as Blumenthal pretty much declares outright – that he isn’t much of a fan of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s antipathy toward shareholder proxy resolutions promoting political spending disclosure policies. Likewise, writes Blumenthal, three other “usual suspects” – the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers and The Wall Street Journal – are aligned with the Chamber against all that the left considers right and proper regarding corporate political transparency and disclosure.

In the article, tellingly titled “The Chamber of Commerce Is Fighting Fiercely to Stop the Scourge of Corporate Transparency,” Blumenthal writes as if guided by the hands of the Center for Political Accountability’s Bruce Freed and the religious activists at As You Sow and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility:

This spring, shareholders in more than 100 companies will introduce resolutions calling for greater disclosure of corporations’ political and lobbying activity. Six major companies — Dean Foods, Eastman Chemical, H&R Block, Marathon Oil, U.S. Steel and Valero Energy — have already reached agreement with New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees the third largest pension fund in the nation, to adopt political spending disclosure policies in exchange for the comptroller’s office withdrawing its resolutions.

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The Great Society only made things worse, says Acton’s co-founder and executive director, Kris Mauren. He gave the final lecture during Northwood’s University’s series, “The Great Society at 50.” Mauren’s talk, titled “Alternatives to the Great Society,” argued that the programs of the Great Society have likely exacerbated issues of poverty and created a “culture of dependency.” A recent article from Midland Daily News summarizes this lecture:

“I am not suggesting we do nothing, but what we are doing isn’t working,” Mauren said. “We need a new paradigm.”

Before Johnson declared war on poverty, society had already created citizen associations.

“Society organized itself to meet needs,” Mauren said. “Fraternal societies helped to care for members.”

These societies helped people with medical care, among other things, and assisted those in short-term need.

At times when large-scale crises occur “that is the exact time for charity… it is appropriate for the government to step in,” Mauren said.

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As Syria enters the fifth year of civil war, one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history is unfolding with no end in sight. This bloody conflict has resulted in the deaths of more than 220,000 Syrians and displaced more than 11 million people, driving almost 4 million people to neighboring countries. Fully one-third of refugees are now in substandard housing and the UN Refugee Agency says the situation is“deteriorating drastically.” An estimated 600,000 refugee children, many of whom have just spent a harsh winter in tents, are no long attending school.

Mark Ohanian, director of programs for International Orthodox Christian Charities, speaks with Acton Institute Director of Communications John Couretas about the Syria relief effort, and the massive flow of refugees into neighboring countries such as Lebanon.

For those in the West Michigan area, Ohanian will be in Grand Rapids on Sunday, May 17, to give a talk on what’s happening in Syria and the Middle East at St. Nicholas Antiochian Church, 2250 E. Paris Avenue SE Grand Rapids MI 49546. IOCC is one of the few relief agencies doing work inside Syria today. It partners with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East and acts as a lead agency for other church relief organizations and major governmental agencies such as USAID and the United Nations. For more information on the event, visit this link.

In this video, Richard Hovannisian, professor emeritus of Armenian and Near Eastern History at the University of California, Los Angeles, explains the Armenian Genocide.

Today is April 24, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, which is held annually to commemorate the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 by Ottoman Turks. It is also the official remembrance of the centennial of the campaign of human and cultural destruction. Here are more reflections and news items:

Message of HH Karekin II at the Canonization of the Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Church — Mother See of Etchmiadzin

The martyrs of the Genocide today, in the luminous chambers of the kingdom of heaven, bearing the crowns of martyrdom, are the patron saints of justice, philanthropy and peace; whose intercession from heaven opens the source of God’s mercy and graces wherever justice is weakened, the tranquility and security of peace is disturbed, where human rights and the rights of people are trampled, threats arise against the welfare of societies, and persecutions against faith and identity are fanaticized.


The courage to call genocide what it is: Recalling the Armenian slaughter, 100 years later

Robert Morganthau, New York Daily News

In 1939, when Hitler was explaining the rationale for wiping out the Polish people in order to take over their land, he asked, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” If there had been a greater outcry and condemnation from the international community, perhaps Hitler would not have been so encouraged to proceed with his plans.

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