Category: Shareholder Activism

Religious shareholder activist group As You Sow released its 2016 Proxy Preview last week, and it’s a doozy. Tellingly, AYS has dropped religious faith as a rationale for its climate-change and anti-lobbying efforts. From the accompanying press release:

More 2016 shareholder proposals than ever before address climate change — 94 compared with 82 in 2015. Of the resolutions, 22 ask energy extractors and suppliers to detail how the warming planet will affect their operations and how they will respond if governments follow through with commitments made in the Paris climate treaty in December to keep fossil fuel assets in the ground to prevent damaging temperature increases. A further 18 resolutions focus on the risks from using hydraulic fracturing to extract energy from shale deposits, including 12 seeking methane reduction targets. Nineteen resolutions ask companies to set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The climate slate is rounded out by another 11 proposals that include a push to change energy reserves accounting at two companies and one suggesting executive bonuses should be linked to fossil fuel reserves accounting changes.

Political activity accounts for another 99 resolutions, including some drawing connections between government inaction on climate change and corporations’ lobbying and election spending. Proposals on lobbying (55) exceed those about election spending (40). Nine companies face resolutions seeking oversight and disclosure of both election and lobbying expenditures.

Hoo boy. Where to begin unpacking all the mischief hinted at above? Suffice it to write that the proxy resolutions in the 2016 Proxy Preview demand individual scrutiny in order to identify the wrongheadedness of it all. This despite the self-congratulatory back-patting and progressive smugness displayed above and below: (more…)

Blog author: bwalker
Thursday, March 10, 2016
By

Oh, dear! GMO cassava can potentially feed millions on the African continent? Heaven forfend!

Oh, dear! GMO cassava can potentially feed millions on the African continent? Heaven forfend!

If you grew up outside the African and South American continents you can be forgiven for thinking cassava is the latest variation of salsa music or perhaps the funky new energy beverage trendy hipsters are drinking these days. In Africa, however, 500 million individuals recognize cassava as a dietary staple much like the rest of the world enjoys potatoes and rice.

Native to South America, cassava was introduced to Africa by Portuguese colonists. Many cassava species exist in South America, however, that cannot be exported to Africa due to cassava mosaic disease, a virus exclusive to Africa. Eighty percent of the African cassava crop perished from mosaic disease in the 1920s, resulting in widespread famine. Other threats to the cassava include such pests as the cassava mealy bug and the cassava green mite.

Addressing this Third-World problem requires some agricultural-science expertise, which most certainly will chagrin the scientifically challenged, anti-genetically modified organism crowd. Because, you know, frankenfoods and such. Readers will remember Green America, among the most outspoken group of GMO detractors. Green America boasts Ceres and US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing affiliations. In turn, these affiliates trumpet their relationships with religious shareholder activists As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

Green America’s outspokenness on GMOs includes reposting a Sept. 2014 article by Debbie Barker, International Programs Director, Center for Food Safety, in which she cavils:

Similarly, the biotech industry touted that cassava, one of the most important starch crops in Africa, was enriched with greatly increased protein content using genetic engineering. However, the research article claiming the elevated protein was later retracted when it was found that the purported increased protein did not exist.

While Barker’s assertion may contain some verity, it’s also quite shortsighted. After all, while the initial protein content of GM cassava may fall short of desired results, it’s also important to ensure the cassava plant depended upon by millions for nourishment is resistant to viruses and pests. Methinks Ms. Barker doth protest too much. You gotta walk before you can run, and recent developments reveal GM cassava is picking up a head of steam. (more…)

Your humble writer takes no pleasure in reminding readers that he told them so, but a post from last December now seems prescient. The post began:

In the wake of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, or COP21), so-called “religious” shareholder activists are intent on ruining investments, crashing the economy and doubling down on their efforts to promote energy poverty throughout the world.

At that time, focus was on the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Church Investors Group, but now comes other groups of religious shareholder activists, As You Sow and Boston Common Asset Management (with a little help from their fellow religious friends at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, Trillium Asset Management, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia and Walden Asset Management), intent on making hay off COP21 pronouncements by spreading misinformation on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the group’s latest report, Disclosing the Facts: Transparency and Risk in Hydraulic Fracturing. Hoo boy.

Suffice it to say the report’s disclaimer is longer and far more detailed than those featured in pharmaceutical advertisements: (more…)

mayonnaiseReaders will forgive their writer for being clueless when it comes to the connection between religion and mayonnaise. Ever since Woody Allen’s character pondered converting to Roman Catholicism in the 1986 film Hannah and Her Sisters by schlepping home a Bible, Crucifix, loaf of Wonder Bread and a jar of Hellmann’s mayo, I’ve wondered what on earth the condiment reference meant. About the sacrilege associated with Allen’s Wonder Bread allusion the less said the better, even during the Lenten season.

Yet earlier this month nonprofit Green America celebrated the Unilever company’s latest non-genetically modified organism (GMO) entries in its Hellman’s Mayonnaise lineup:

Green America congratulates Unilever on two new products announced today—Hellmann’s organic mayonnaise and Hellmann’s “Carefully Crafted” egg-free dressing and sandwich spread. Both products are made with non-GMO ingredients. The announcement of these products follows the introduction of Hellman’s non-GMO olive oil mayonnaise last year.

Hellmann’s USDA certified organic mayonnaise is made with all organic ingredients including organic/non-GMO and cage-free eggs. Hellmann’s “Carefully Crafted” sandwich spread is an egg-free, and cholesterol-free spread made with non-GMO ingredients.

The Green America press release goes so far as proclaiming the condiment brand “iconic,” which I suppose automatically grants it religious status among some faiths. So, there’s that. (more…)

2016_proxybookcover_squarecropThe silly season once again is upon us, and by that your writer doesn’t mean federal campaigning for political office for which he cares little or the prevalence of self-promoting entertainment awards programs for which he cares even less. Instead, he means the 2016 proxy shareholder resolution season, specifically as it applies to nuisance resolutions from religious investment groups having more to do with leftist agendas than rational corporate governance and … well, you know … religion.

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (marketing tagline: “Inspired by Faith, Committed to Action”) released earlier this month its 2016 Proxy Resolutions and Voting Guide. As of this writing, As You Sow hasn’t released its 2016 Proxy Preview, but familiarity with the past two volumes leads to anticipation of more of the same progressive targeting of publicly held companies on such issues as climate change mitigation, executive compensation and board diversity, and transparency on corporate donations and lobbying efforts (ICCR, at least, seems to have dialed back significantly efforts to curtail the use of genetically modified organisms).

These topics ostensibly fall under the Corporate Social Responsibility rubric as identified by both AYS and ICCR. However difficult it is connecting many of the above initiatives with CSR, it’s even more mind-boggling connecting the dots between AYS and ICCR clergy, nuns and other religious and the progressive causes for which they advocate. That is unless readers accept the premise that underneath every nun’s habit and clerical collar is an Erin Brokovich or Bill McKibben yearning to get out. (more…)

Jeb Bush spent $100 million, and still missed it by this much!

Jeb Bush spent $100 million, and still missed it by this much!

What can $100 million buy a fella these days? Trick question, of course, because $100 million can buy a whole heck of a lot. However, it can’t buy a Republican presidential nomination. Despite recent developments, the religious shareholder investors over at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility continue their crusade to force the companies in which they invest to disclose publicly their donations to political causes and candidates.

ICCR’s fears are unfounded. If you don’t believe your writer, just ask Jeb Bush. The former Florida governor amassed an extraordinary campaign war chest reported at $100 million – but to no avail. His campaign never gained any traction this primary season despite receiving and spending millions of dollars, including $70 million on broadcast advertising spent by his Right to Rise super PAC, according to the New York Times. The Washington Post claims Right to Rise spent $87 million on advertising.

After two dismal primary and one caucus finishes, Mr. Bush pulled the plug on his campaign.

The Center for Competitive Politics President David Keating summed it up neatly after Saturday’s primary results:

“Money can’t buy love, or votes…. Has there ever been a better example than Jeb Bush of the fact that voters decide the outcome of elections, not money? From Blair Hull and John Corzine to Linda McMahon and Meg Whitman, Jeb Bush joins the litany of failed candidates with big campaign warchests who ultimately lost or dropped out. While money is critical for getting a message out, it can’t convince people to cast a vote, make Americans like a candidate, or fix systemic issues within a campaign.”

(more…)

Blog author: bwalker
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
By

Poodle_eating_Blue_Bell_ice_creamAs noted in past posts, the tentacles of progressive environmentalism and fear-mongering against genetically modified organisms reach deep into the universe of religious shareholder activism. In fact, the connection between Green America and shareholder groups As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility reads like a tin-eared version of “Dem Bones” wherein the connective tissue is mutual involvement with US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment and Ceres.

Knowledge of the complicated interrelationships of these investment groups prompted your writer to open an email from Green America’s Anna Meyer this past week. Ms. Meyer fears the world might actually feed GMO-derived nourishment to its pets:

Last week we celebrated a victory for consumers when Mars, maker of M&Ms and Skittles, announced it would remove artificial colors from all of its human foods. This shows that Mars is a company that listens to what its customers want.

Now we must tell Mars to deepen its commitment to sustainability by offering non-GMO human and pet food products. (more…)