Sea Change Media is producing a year-long series of monthly podcasts called The Arc of Change: The ICCR Story recounting how the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility helped pioneer the practice of shareholder activism since its 1971 founding. In the first episode, Bill Baue and Francesca Rheannon of Sea Change Media interview ICCR Executive Director Laura Berry about how ICCR got started, the guiding principles that empassion its movement, and its place in the larger universe of the financial markets. The press release generated a lot of interest, and the story got picked up by CNBC, MSN Money, ABC, Yahoo News, and EarthTimes.
Sea Change also produced a preview podcast, giving a taste of some of the stories that will be recounted over the next year in the Arc of Change series. Check it out!
Jim Boyce of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst talks about the new report, Justice in the Air. It looks at EPA data showing that the toxins spewing from company smokestacks hit minorities and the poor hardest. And Leslie Lowe of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility talks about Chevron’s refusal to disclose the $27 billion liability it faces in a court case happening in the Amazonian rainforests of Ecuador. The company is accused of dumping toxic oil byproducts from years of drilling, damaging the environment and the health of residents.
Each January for the past several years, Bill has surveyed the top Corporate Social Responsibility news stories of the past year for CSRwire.com, where he is a contributing writer. Here’s this year’s edition:
A “green” recovery from economic and environmental meltdowns; the advent of Shareholder Activism 2.0 with binding resolutions at TARP banks; CSR adopts Web 2.0 strategies for sustainability reporting; is Wal-Mart really green?; and much more…
The economic meltdown of 2008 mirrors the simultaneous environmental meltdown fueled by the climate calamity – both share common roots, and many in the Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility (CSR) community believe they share a common salvation. Continue reading
Today, Sea Change Radio talks with Nick Robins of HSBC and Cary Krosinsky of Trucost about their book, Sustainable Investing. We also visit the Responsible Investing Forum, produced in association with the Social Investment Forum, where we speak with Tim Smith of Walden Asset Management about shareowner activism and hear the excerpts from the keynote of John Ruggie, the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights.
Tim Smith, an early innovators of shareowner activism in the 1970s, analyzes this year’s proxy season. Smith was head of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. ICCR practically invented the process of filing shareholder resolutions at companies they invest in raising concern around the environmental, society, and governance — now known as ESG. For years, he attended companies’ general meetings during proxy season when investors vote on shareholder resolutions.
We woke up this week to find Lehman Brothers, the venerable bank founded over a century ago, belly up, and Merrill Lynch merged with Bank of America in a shot-gun wedding. And late last night, the Fed announced it had taken control the mega-insurer American International Group, or AIG. As the subprime meltdown continues, it feels as if the market is crumbling around us. What caused this crisis, and where do we go from here? To address these questions, we speak with three experts. Economics Professor Jim Crotty of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst explains the underpinnings of the problem. Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility Executive Director Laura Berry talks about how the faith-based lens exposed problems in predatory subprime lending a decade-and-a-half ago. And independent economic analyst Chris Martenson gazes into his crystal ball to project the likely trajectory of the credit crisis.
In place of CWR headlines, this week we hear extended comments from Steve Adamske, communications director of the House Financial Services Committee, about Chair Barney Frank’s plan to create a new federal entity to oversee government management of companies collapsing due to mortgage debt.
Utilities and coal companies are pushing to open over a hundred new coal-fired power plants in the US. But activists, investors, communities, consumers, and scientists are pointing to financial, regulatory, environmental, and social risks that far outweigh the potential benefits of coal. And they are pulling back the veil from the myth of clean coal, exposing that king coal is a naked emperor. Carbon capture and storage, the key to coal’s “clean” claims, has years of technical and economic hurdles to cross. Leslie Lowe, director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibilty’s Energy & Environment Program, speaks with us today about the risks of committing to a future of new coal plants.
—Airlines Flying to and From Europe Will Have to Pay for Emissions
—Coal plants get thumbs up — and thumbs down
—Leading Climate Scientist calls Coal and Oil CEO’s Criminals
—Clean coal gets a boost from the US Dept of Energy
CWR ViewPoint: read (Thanks to our partner CSRwire for posting text of CWR commentaries.)
Yochi Zakai of Co-op America points out that clean coal is dirtier than it’s cracked up to be. He comments on the recent Georgia court ruling against a new coal plant proposed by Dynegy, and Co-op America’s ongoing activism aimed at that company and others in the industry.
Corporate Watchdog Radio co-hosts Francesca Rheannon and Bill Baue speak with Laura Berry, executive director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Founded in 1971, ICCR pioneered the modern practice of shareowner activism by reviving an obscure rule allowing shareowners to file resolutions addressing social and environmental issues at company annual meetings and on their proxies. Now, over three-and-a-half decades later, ICCR is a coalition of about 275 faith-based institutional investors with over $100 billion in assets who filed over 300 resolutions this proxy season.
Berry clarifies common misconceptions about how the ins and outs of shareowner activism. For example, media accounts often report a less-than-majority vote as a “defeat,” when in fact, companies often implement what resolutions request when they receive 20 percent or more support. She also discusses transformations she sees taking place in the corporate social responsibility landscape.
CWR also debuts a new segment with headlines on corporate sustainability developments from the past week, the first in a series of exciting changes to enhance the show.
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.