Category: News and Events

Screen-Shot-2014-12-16-at-4.09.38-PMIt could be argued that Exxon is actually an energy company, but it’s still an energy company that knows where its bread is buttered. Oil and gas is the winning game for this company, not solar.

Thus wrote Jeff Siegel this week on the Energy & Capital website. Siegel was referring to Exxon Mobil Corporation’s thumping of shareholder resolutions by As You Sow, the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility and other religious groups intended to push ExxonMobil into naming an environmental scientist to the board and issue a report on the environmental impact of the company’s hyraulic-fracturing operations. Another study to be pitched on the growing pile of fracking reports issued regularly by industry and regulators?

Siegel is as clearheaded a liberal writer as I’ve come across on these matters. He writes:

Again, I don’t see the benefit here for shareholders.

Those who oppose fracking have plenty of this data, anyway. So to mandate such a report seems like a waste of time, particularly if the report indicates no negative side effects. You think anyone who opposes fracking would believe anything included in that report?

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Photo credit: Western Catholic Reporter

Fr. Michael Crosby | Photo credit: Western Catholic Reporter

Shareholder resolutions intended to force Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. to adopt greenhouse gas reduction goals and name environmental experts (i.e. any scientist who believes human activity causes climate change) to their respective board of directors were defeated last week. Not only were they defeated, they were crushed. Chevron shareholders mustered only 9 percent support for GHG reductions and 20 percent for the environmentalist board member. Eighty percent of ExxonMobil shareholders rejected the additional board member, and only 10 percent voted for reducing GHG emissions.

Naturally, such progressive outlets as The Guardian sympathetically reported the proposals by touting the highly anticipated climate-change encyclical of Pope Francis, which is epected later this month. Of course, few outside the Vatican know exactly what the Pope will say in the document, but the Guardian goes so far as to draw a connection between the ExxonMobil and Chevron resolutions and the Pope. Readers are led to conclude that shareholders (As You Sow, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, among others) introducing the shareholder resolutions represent all Catholics. (more…)

The religious shareholders of As You Sow and Calvert Investments are heralding last month’s shareholder vote on greenhouse gas reduction targets as an out-and-out victory.

Ummmm … not so fast. Although the press release on the AYS website trumpets: “Shareholders Vote for Greenhouse Gas Reductions at Midwest Utilities,” the facts tell a much different story. Yes, some shareholders did indeed vote in favor of the AYS/CI resolution, but not nearly enough to pass it:

Citing climate change impacts and financial risks of carbon-intense coal assets, shareholders representing billions of dollars of assets voted for carbon reduction targets at FirstEnergy and Great Plains Energy, showing strong support for a pair of shareholder proposals put forth by non-profit As You Sow and investment group Calvert Investments.

All this from shareholder activists apparently unaware of a little government entity called the Environmental Protection Agency, which, for better or worse, won’t announce its final rules for existing and new, modified and reconstructed power plants until this summer. According to the EPA, the agency will release this summer a Clean Power Plan for existing power plants in states, Native American country and U.S. territories; Carbon Pollution Standards for new, modified and reconstructed power plants; and issue a federal plan for meeting Clean Power Plan goals for public review and comment. (more…)

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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