The World Bank Group’s mission is to reduce poverty. The Bank also works toward environmental sustainability. What’s the link between them, and does its practice on the ground promote both priorities? That’s the question posed by the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group or IEG in a recent audit of the Bank’s funding projects. The results? Disappointing. CWR co-hosts Francesca Rheannon and Bill Baue speak with Vinod Thomas, Director-General of the IEG about the report. The IEG is producing a follow-up report focusing directly on the effectiveness of the the World Bank Group’s environmental and social sustainability safeguards and standards.
Steve Herz comments on how International Finance Corporation social standards fail to protect against human rights abuses. Herz recently co-authored a report on the human rights performance of the International Finance Corporation’s Performance Standards and the Equator Principles. The analysis was conducted in partnership with the World Resources Institute, the Center for International Environmental Law, the Bank Information Center, BankTrack, and Oxfam Australia. Herz practices international, environmental, and human rights law in Oakland, CA.
The ExxonMobil annual shareholder meeting this year carried high expectations from shareholder activists. Members of the Rockefeller family, descending from the founder of the Standard Oil monopoly that splintered into Exxon and Mobil, attended the meeting to support four different shareholder resolutions on corporate governance and climate change. Of these four, the resolution supported by most Rockefellers asked the company to split the CEO and Board Chair positions. Today’s CWR guest, Bob Monks, has filed this resolution at ExxonMobil since the early 2000s. His struggle to hold ExxonMobil accountable exemplifies the broader struggle to hold corporations accountable described in his new book, Corpocracy. Monks is co-founder of Institutional Shareholder Services, The Corporate Library, Lens Governance Advisors, and a former Labor Department official in the Reagan Administration.
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Longtime shareholder activist Steve Viederman presented this statement at the ExxonMobil Annual Meeting in May 2008 to introduce resolution 19 asking Exxon to adopt a renewable energy policy. He filed the resolution along with other individuals, families, foundations and religious orders, joined by 20 institutional investors worth over $740 billion in combined assets, including Exxon Mobil stock valued at more than $8.6 billion.
CWR co-hosts Bill Baue and Francesca Rheannon speak with Gary Hirshberg, CEO of organic yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm, and author of Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World. Hirshberg believes that business is a necessary force for creating a sustainable economy and society, as outlined in his book. Yet he admits that business is a primary cause of our current unsustainable economy, a seeming contradiction that he explains in our conversation.
Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, provides commentary on a recent Ceres report examining how mainstream mutual funds vote on shareholder resolutions that urge companies to address climate change. A 2004 SEC rule requires mutual funds to disclose their proxy voting records each year. The report finds that mainstream mutual fund opposition to climate resolutions is thawing–but ironically, support for climate resolutions is also decreasing. Filling this gap is abstentions, which have doubled from 2004 to 2007. For the sake of disclosure, CWR co-host Bill Baue co-authored the report.
CWR co-hosts Bill Baue and Francesca Rheannon speak with Eric Cohen, chairperson for Investors against Genocide and Tim Smith, senior vice president at Walden Asset Management and immediate past chair of the Social Investment Forum, about the campaign promoting targeted divestment by mutual funds from companies supporting the Khartoum regime in the Sudan.
Smith, who helped pioneer the practice of shareholder activism encouraging companies to adopt more sustainable and responsible practices as a founder of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, discusses the novelty and efficacy of engaging mutual funds, which has rarely been practiced until now.
Cohen explains the strategy in-depth, noting that the SEC upheld its validity after mutual fund giant Fidelity challenged it legally. He also cites a 2007 survey in which 71% of respondents said that mutual fund companies should take into account extreme cases of human rights abuses when investing overseas, rather than make their investment decisions on economic criteria alone.
Cecilie Surasky of Jewish Voice for Peace and Michael Passoff of the As You Sow Foundation discuss the shareowner resolution they filed with Caterpillar over the Israeli Defense Forces’ use of their bulldozers to commit human rights abuses in the occupied territories. Bill Somplatsky-Jarman of the Presbyterian Church USA discusses how its Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee is engaging Caterpillar, Citigroup, Motorolla, United Technologies, and ITT to promote peaceful solutions to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Guests Marjorie Kelly and Allen White go into more depth on their efforts in Corporation2020 to redesign the corporation. They discuss the need to realign the purpose of the corporation so that it does not undermine societal well-being, and how to ensure that corporations do not undermine human rights — ending the fiction of “corporate personhood” that has enabled corporations to undermine politics and public policy. The show also includes recent success stories in Humboldt County, CA and Franklin County, PA.
Coca Cola faces human rights and environmental charges in India and Columbia. Amnesty International targets Yahoo for cooperating with Chinese government to jail a dissident. Guests include Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, Camilo Romero Students Against Sweatshops, Kari Bjorhus of Coca Cola, Ann Corbett and Simon Billeness of Amnesty International.
Dan Viederman, executive director of Verite’, a nonprofit that monitors factories globally for compliance with human and labor rights codes.
Discussion touches on Verité’s work with the Gap on its groundbreaking Social Responsibility Report that disclosed for the first time labor rights violations; Verité’s new report on exploitation of foreign contract laborers in Asia and the Middle East; the challenges of maintaining independence from corporate clients.
Chevron’s accountability for the legacy of environmental destruction and health impacts from oil exploitation by subsidiary Texaco in the Oriente region of Ecuador from 1964-1992. We speak with Cristobal Bonifaz, lead attorney in the Maria Aguinda Salazar v. ChevronTexaco class-action lawsuit filed in Lago Agrio, Ecuador (after navigating US courts for a decade) in May 2003 by 88 Ecuadorians representing 30,000 indigenous community members and settlers, and currently in the inspection phase visiting the 627 unlined pits where toxic “formation waters” (which accompany oil when extracted) were dumped.
We also speak with Leslie Lowe, director of the Energy and Environment program for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a coalition of 275 faith-based institutional investors with more than $110 billion in assets whose members filed 3 shareholder resolutions this year at Chevron related directly or indirectly to the Ecuador environmental and human rights problems. Ms. Lowe visited the affected regions in March of this year as a member of a delegation of Chevron shareholders–including the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS–the largest US pension fund) on a fact-finding mission.
Finally, Corporate Watchdog Radio correspondent David Poritz, who runs a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in Ecuador called Esperanza that brings shoes to the affected communities as well as bringing students to the region to give them a first hand experience seeing the contamination, speaks with ethnobiologist Dr. Estella de la Torre in the Secoya community of San Pablo, where she does research.