Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Shareholder activists have long promoted transparency in corporate reporting. Now, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) acknowledges its rules governing company disclosures aren’t good enough. So FASB is proposing new rules. Today, we speak with Corporate Watchdog Radio co-founder Sanford Lewis about his shareholder activism promoting better corporate disclosure on environmental and human health risks. Lewis, who serves as general counsel for the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN), identifies several strengths — as well as some disconcerting weaknesses — in the proposed rules. IEHN has issued an action alert outlining these strengths and weaknesses to guide submissions during the public comment period ending August 8.
Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, comments on toxics in cosmetics. Malkan points out that companies are allowed to label products ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ and still use harmful synthetics. Her award-winning book, Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry (New Society, 2007), tells the inside story of the campaign’s five-year effort to hold the beauty industry accountable to women’s health.
2007 could have been called the Year of Shopping Dangerously. First there was the pet food scare, then toxic toothpaste, then a bevy of poisonous toys being recalled, one after another – containing lead, asbestos and other toxic materials. Many of the toxic products came from manufacturing outsourced to China. Do we have to choose between products that are cheap or products that are safe? Or is our regulatory system broke? With the US and China set to sign agreements soon to try to make Chinese exports meet U.S. standards, our interviewees today probe the deeper issues, and help us understand how much more it will take to end the flood of toxic products.
Cohost Sanford Lewis speaks with Melissa Brown of the Association for Sustainable & Responsible Investment in Asia (ASRIA) and Lauren Compere, an investor with Boston Common Asset Management, who discuss the failures of third party audits and the challenges of a multilayered China supply chain, and Stacy Malkan, author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, who says that toxic products are not just a China problem – in fact the United States has some of the weakest product toxicity regulations in the developed world. This episode of CWR produced with support of the Investor Environmental Health Network.