Posts tagged with: Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

Shareholders

All eyes seem to be directed toward Rome last week as the Pope weighed in on climate change. As anticipated, there has already been a lot of spinning by the whirling dervishes of the zealous variety– doubling down on their over-the-top, pre-release spin.

Yes, it’s a given both sides of the climate-change debate are spinning, but as your writer is on the skeptical end of the spectrum it seems the other end is receiving the majority of media coverage. Skeptics? We’re castigated as “deniers,” “Republicans,” and, of course, “anti-science.” Ouch! No worries, however, as we skeptics have grown accustomed to ad hominem attacks, not to mention pseudo-science, false claims of a scientific consensus agreeing on human-caused global warming, and accusations we’re performing the bidding of Faux News. Hoo boy, as Boris Badenov used to say.

Allow me a bit of schadenfreude when I report the consistent defeat of so-called religious-based shareholder activism deployed against oil and gas companies – on which more below. I take pleasure in these persistent defeats not because I dislike my loyal opposition as much as they dislike skeptics but because I’m convinced the best way to lift the poor from poverty and incumbent disease, hunger and illness is cheap and readily available fuels. It’s not about winning an argument from my point of view inasmuch it’s about enabling the world’s poorest to attain self-sufficiency, health, and comfort – mostly because I recognize the world’s poverty has been halved in the past 20 years, largely due to affordable fuels.

And yet… Elizabeth Douglass at InsideClimate News reports religious shareholders are persistent in their failed efforts to deep-six economically the companies in which they invest. Douglass trots out the usual suspects: Timothy Smith of Boston-based Walden Asset Management; Sister Patricia Daly of the Roman Catholic Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, N.J.; and Rev. Michael Crosby from the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order in Milwaukee. Daly and Crosby, notes Douglass, “have worked together for years as active participants in the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a New York group whose members manage more than $100 billion in assets.” Douglass continues:

For the past few years, several climate resolutions at Exxon have won more than a quarter of the shareholder vote, and sometimes nearly a third. The vote count reached a remarkable level of backing for proposals opposed by management, according to Heidi Welsh, executive director at the Sustainable Investments Institute, a Maryland-based nonprofit that provides impartial analysis of social and environmental policy shareholder resolutions.

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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…)

1333630489130_3671856Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, those of us of a particular bent loved the word “freedom.” The word was featured in the lyrics of many popular songs of the era, and the case could be made that hippies were called freaks as a pun on their oft-chanted “free” mantra. Heck, there was even a band named Free, which captivated the zeitgeist with a classic song about a man angling for a little “free” love with a woman too savvy to succumb so easily.

Free speech also once was all the rage. Lenny Bruce and George Carlin’s infamous seven words and all that, am I right? So, what happened? When did the hippies, yippies, liberals and progressives transition from fetishizing all things related to freedom to checking under their beds every night for a missing Koch brother? (more…)

Should corporate donations to political causes remain private or shouldn’t they? Your writer would argue for the former as he holds the U.S. Supreme Court nailed it with its Citizens United decision. Progressive shareholder activists, naturally, disagree.

Except, that is, when incredible secrecy suits progressive social and political ends. The Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, for example, asserts Citizens United is the worst kind of travesty against all things they desire made transparent – as does ICCR member Walden Asset Management.

While “dark money” corporate donations give ICCR and WAM the Screaming Mimi’s, both groups are quiet as church mice when it comes to secretive funding of such progressive agendas as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. For example, ICCR and WAM haven’t uttered a peep concerning software magnate Tim Gill’s advocacy group OutGiving, a highly secretive group of millionaires who funnel money into campaigns supportive of LGBT causes and candidates likely to support them. (more…)

Divestment-600-AEA-1Your faithful correspondent last week exposed the fossil-fuel divestment endgame of religious shareholder activists. As You Sow President Danielle Fugere sees her group’s activities as awareness-raising exercises for climate change, but AYS’s alignment with environmentalist and divestment firebrand Naomi Klein suggests they’d settle for nothing less than nationalizing oil companies. This week, I’m happy to report another group frequently called to task in this space, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, opposes the AYS divestment onslaught. Reporting in last week’s Wall Street Journal, Gregory J. Millman writes:

An organization of faith-based and socially responsible investors is pushing back against the call for divestment from fossil fuel companies. At its Winter Conference Wednesday, the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, which claims 300 member organizations controlling $100 billion in invested capital, called instead for more shareholder engagement with such companies.

“Divestment is one step but a blunt instrument that leaves investors with no voice at corporate tables,” said Laura Berry, executive director of the ICCR.

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dr evil

Ooh, ooh dark money!

Now that the midterms and 2014 shareholder proxy resolution thankfully are in our rearview mirror, we can pick through the claims of the progressive religious groups such as those affiliated with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Some of the charges hurled against donations by the libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch serve only to deflect similar charges that progressive political action committees, candidates and causes are receiving storage lockers full of mad stacks of beaucoup bucks (author’s redundancy intentional).

In short, ICCR and its posse’s protests against the brothers Koch amount to nothing more than hypocrisy. Progressive PACs receive remarkably more bank than their conservative counterparts. Yet, ICCR boasted like a cackling Dr. Evil complete with pinky pressed to mouth’s corner in early September it had amassed 1 million comments for submission to the Securities and Exchange Commission:

In a record-breaking demonstration of support, over one million commenters have submitted comments to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) calling on the agency to take immediate steps to require publicly traded corporations to disclose their use of corporate resources for political purposes to their shareholders….

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RL-logo-wit1Earlier this month, religious shareholder activists from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, Mercy Investment Services and the Sisters of Mercy nabbed headlines by attempting to force Ralph Lauren Corp. to conduct a needless and politically driven human-rights risk assessment of offshore vendors.

The ICCR effort is another “name and shame” tactic intended to publically embarrass a company refusing to play ball with a left-leaning organization. According to the Huffington Post, the nominally religious shareholders’ proposal is …

… backed by the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund, an investment fund for the national trade union center, that urged Ralph Lauren to assess human-rights risk throughout its supply chain. The company’s board of directors told shareholders to vote the proposal down. (more…)

With the mountain of books and articles that have been written about business ethics, one wonders why nothing much has been written on what we might call shareholder ethics. I’m thinking of religious shareholder activists such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. As it turns out, these groups trade on the moral status of their respective members to further agendas seldom related to matters of religious faith.

Instead, the clergy and religious in shareholder activist groups dedicate themselves to temporal causes of a distinctly left-of-center stripe, including stifling corporate political speech in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. According to Acton’s Rev. Robert Sirico:

Every annual meeting season, we watch as a small group of activist groups on the left such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility submit proxy resolutions that demand disclosures of corporate public policy expenditures. This is done, these groups claim, in furtherance of a more ‘just and sustainable world.’ In fact, such resolutions are designed to first bully corporations into disclosing lobbying activities and then promptly turn the tables by conducting aggressive campaigns in the press to shame them. (more…)

253877_5_Acton’s president and co-founder, Rev. Robert Sirico, recently wrote a piece for Real Clear Religion about corporations and social justice activism. He warns that the religious left’s attempts to stifle free speech in corporate boardrooms  would certainly negatively impact our political life.

Every annual meeting season, we watch as a small group of activist groups on the left such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility submit proxy resolutions that demand disclosures of corporate public policy expenditures. This is done, these groups claim, in furtherance of a more “just and sustainable world.” In fact, such resolutions are designed to first bully corporations into disclosing lobbying activities and then promptly turn the tables by conducting aggressive campaigns in the press to shame them.

But the religious underpinnings for such arguments are spurious. The argument always goes that corporations have money and the poor and disadvantaged (always “disenfranchised” from the political process) do not. Therefore, according to this logic, it follows that it’s unfair that corporations are allowed to make public policy expenditures to unduly influence the political process. Curiously, opponents of such spending are often themselves corporate entities (albeit non-profit entities) that spend large sums of money to voice their own opinions. (more…)

The 2014 proxy shareholder season is over, and left-of-center religious investment groups such as the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow are crowing about victories and announcing their plans for next year. For example, ICCR notes in its latest issue of The Corporate Examiner:

While virtually every company participates in lobbying of some sort, companies often make undisclosed expenditures to third-party trade associations which then use that money in ways that can run counter to a company’s publicly-stated positions. After sustained engagement with ICCR members, VISA left the controversial model legislation group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and has implemented board-level oversight of its lobbying activities. Amgen agreed to disclose its membership in trade associations along with the amounts the trade associations spend from its fees for lobbying. Accenture has significantly expanded its public lobbying disclosure. A resolution calling for lobbying disclosure at Emerson won 41.6%.

Political spending by corporations is also an issue for investors. Hess committed to fully disclosing its trade association memberships and the names of the tax exempt organizations to which it makes contributions, as well as the portion of those payments that is used for political activities. EQT adopted a political contributions transparency policy. A resolution on contributions at Emerson won 47% of the vote. (more…)