Each year we marvel at the speed at which the human and natural environment go through unimaginable changes and we’ve only begun to realize the impact. Right now, the climate crisis, systemic racism, and the coronavirus call us to stand as one humanity and to be attentive to the most vulnerable in our communities and cities. The lens of the most recent events has allowed us to view suffering and a reservoir of compassion and charity that is immeasurable as we observe the concern for front line workers and the tons of food being distributed to those in need all across the country. We stand in solidarity with all our brothers and sisters and dedicate this corporate report to the many and untold numbers of healthcare and front-line workers who have been profoundly affected by this pandemic.
How we treat each other moving forward—as a community and as citizens of the planet Earth—will define us. As people of faith, we will continue to do our part to be resilient, to care for creation, to pray for a more equitable world, to seek justice for the most vulnerable, and to offer compassion and assistance to all those in need. This new reality calls us to reconsider how we integrate those elements of equity, justice, and compassion into action. The term “essential worker” has new meaning; our healthcare system, which ties insurance with employment, has been devastated with the sudden layoff of millions of workers; and in the face of severe shortages of Covid-19 testing kits, personal protective equipment, and respirators, rationing of medical assistance has pitted state against state and those who are wealthy against those who are poor. As Franciscans we must stand with the most vulnerable and make our voices heard while listening to the voices of the scientists to confront climate change and future pandemics as well as work to “dismantle systemic racism in all its forms.” (Pax Christi)
The Office of Corporate Social Responsibility’s advocacy for a just society through corporate engagements and community development investments will continue to address the many environmental and social challenges that have afflicted our world. We will use our access as shareholders to enable Wells Fargo to operate with ethical standards, hold Aramark accountable to treat prison workers humanely, ensure that Chevron addresses human rights and environmental justice impacts resulting from its oil and gas operations, and insist that pharmaceutical companies Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Pfizer seek equitable solutions to the rising costs of medicines. These are among over 100 actions seeking responsible corporate behavior.
Collaboration leads to success, which is generally evident in our shareholder work as members of coalitions. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN), and Investors for Opioid and Pharmaceutical Accountability (IOPA) have allowed its members to leverage the group’s collective expertise and resources to maximize our influence on corporate decisions. Recently a willingness to consider socially responsible principles by some of the world’s largest institutional investors has led to conversations with Blackrock, State Street, and Vanguard. Our hope is that this new level of awareness of the importance of environmental and social issues from mainstream investors will lead to more responsible behavior at the corporate level.
On the other hand, we have spent an excessive amount of time putting pressure on the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) to prevent changes in our ability to file resolutions. Under the present guidance, we file resolutions with companies under Rule 14a8. That means we are required to have at least $2,000 worth of shares in a particular company and those shares have to be held for at least one year. The new rules, if operationalized, would require $15,000 worth of shares and those shares would be held for one year. The new rules would make changes in guidance and interpretation and it would become more challenging to win an action. Sr. Nora joined with five members of ICCR to meet with Commissioners Jay Clayton and Allison Lee to discuss the burden of the proposed changes. Thousands of letter of opposition and recommendation have been written as we await a decision.
Although our shareholder work is generally focused on companies in our investment portfolio, the issues we address frequently extend to society in general and now we’ve spent untold hours on the interrelatedness of the coronavirus and climate change and other salient impacts of the present pandemic.
One important component of our Annual Corporate Report is to highlight some of the over 100 corporate engagements that took place over the past 12 months. The coronavirus didn’t interfere with these engagements and, in fact, heightened the need for engagement across most lines of business challenging corporations to address the very core of their existence. In our corporate engagements we are committed to making the moral and business case for corporate responsibility as seen through environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks.
Human Rights and the Rights of Communities
In the spirit of both St. Francis and Laudato Si, we engage many companies in which we have shares to manage seriously their human rights risks and address their human rights impacts that demonstrate strong risk oversight and sound corporate governance. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights call on companies to respect human rights within their operations and throughout their value chains. ICCR’s Investor Alliance for Human Rights (IAHS) has provided strong guidance to work with companies as we access their current salient risks and evaluate their human rights impacts. It is important that corporate management and board members provide leadership that address significant operational, financial, and reputational risks associated with negative human rights impacts across all businesses. Many companies proudly display their human rights policies but their focus on implementing those policies is often lacking assessments, monitoring, and measurements.
Watch: Human Rights and Business
Amazon, American Airlines, Boeing, Booz Allen, Chevron, Core Civic (private prison), Delta Airlines, GEO Group (private prison), Hershey, Macy’s, Northrop Grumman, Sturm Ruger, J. P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo
We continue to engage the above named companies on their ongoing development of their human rights policies. Resolutions were again filed with Amazon, Chevron, Northrop Grumman, and, as cofiler, with Macy’s. All resolutions were challenged at the SEC and all except Macy’s will be presented at the (virtual) Annual General Meetings (AGM).
In collaboration with the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia and other ICCR members, Northrop Grumman adopted a Human Rights Policy in 2013. Seven years later it still does not disclose its salient human rights issues or how the policy is implemented to prevent, mitigate, or remediate adverse human rights impacts associated with its government contracts.
In 2019, 31% of shareholders voted in favor of increased reporting on the implementation of the company’s Human Rights Policy. Yet investors are still unable to assess how it evaluates and mitigates risks accompanying specific activities such as weapons contracts, military training, biometrics, and emerging technologies, or with governments engaged in conflict. The company claims that it is doing all the assessment needed. However, it refuses to do an Impact Assessment. We presented our resolution at the AGM on May 20, 2020, and received a good vote (approximately 20%) but we don’t have final figures.
A resolution was filed requesting that the board commission a report assessing Amazon’s process for customer due diligence, to determine whether customer’s use of its surveillance and computer vision products or cloud-based services contributes to human rights violations. It was challenged at the SEC but it has gotten a 32.1% vote at the Annual General Meeting (AGM). You can read the proxy memo, an exempt solicitation prepared by the filers, for more details here: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1018724/000121465920004536/j514203px14a6g.htm.
Amazon had its AGM in late May and at least 10 resolutions received good votes. While Amazon typically has limited engagement with shareholders, ICCR members hold a monthly “Big Tent” call among themselves. These calls serve as strategy sessions where members can plan next steps, talk about how nonprofit or government regulatory bodies can serve as allies, and update each other on progress with the company. Through these calls we have had opportunities to engage Amazon warehouse workers whose rights have been violated.
For several years now, our shareholder advocacy with Chevron has been driven by our focus on human rights and the company’s human rights policy. ICCR members enabled Chevron to draw up a human rights policy in 2009 and ever since then we have challenged the company to make it operational. It has been evident that the company struggles to address effectively the many salient issues related to its operations in the development, storage, and transportation of oil and gas. We have no data to substantiate that Chevron is using the core international human rights framework to assess, identify, prevent, mitigate, and remedy adverse human rights impacts.
This year we asked Chevron to “Evaluate its Human Rights Policies and Practices” in our resolution. This process is critical both to Chevron and to the human community, environmental justice communities, and, especially, fence line communities. Chevron’s existing human rights due diligence fails to address the risks. Investors and communities are unable to assess the effectiveness of its systems in several areas and, in particular, in reducing negative impacts on environmental justice communities. The company fails to disclose assessment of salient risks, including excessive negative impacts as related to human health, economic sustainability, and quality of life. Chevron already knows that the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) Report in 2019 identified the numerous toxic contaminants coming from California refineries but citizens and shareholders have no knowledge related to how the company has assessed and curbed emitting contaminants such as: ammonia, xylene, formaldehyde, methanol, benzene, hexane, hydrogen sulfide, sulfuric acid, toluene, hydrogen chloride, and, possibly, numerous others.
We know that emissions from Chevron’s operations contribute to both the climate crisis and the coronavirus crisis which has compounded impacts on already burdened communities. Environmental justice communities (lower-income and people of color) are disproportionally exposed to toxicity and lung-damaging pollution from fossil-fuels and are then subjected to a range of health problems from respiratory ailments to heart disease and now the dreaded coronavirus.
Learn more from our proxy memo: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/93410/000121465920004211/j58203px14a6g.htm.
Progress is slow but a three-hour meeting in March with the chief ethics officer and the vice president of the community division gave us greater insight into the company’s plans to implement numerous policies around supply chain, human rights, worker training, general oversight, monitoring, and salient issues related to treatment of residents. The company is working on the top four salient issues: healthcare, equality, torture/degrading treatment, humane and dignified conditions. The company has a contract with Deloitte for third party assessment and verification.
Last year, shareholders received a majority vote (over 50%) on the human rights resolution that requested a report detailing the implementation of the portion of GEO’s human rights policy that addresses “respect for our inmates and detainees.” The referenced human rights policy has been in place but never put into operation. GEO will not dialogue with shareholders but we will continue to exert pressure toward justice for inmates.
Briefly, Wells Fargo is specifically working with us on developing its human rights policy beyond a statement. The company has hired an individual who has an extensive background in human rights. We expect to have Zoom meetings over the summer. Our work with the Mortgage Care and Recovery Group continues with small success for some homeowners. Three of our cases went to a successful deposition. The company was one of the first banks to complete the questionnaire on the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD). The company has stopped financing private prisons and will not provide financial lines of credit to exploration in the Artic. The company has appeared to benefit from the Cares Act in a manner that supported top clients. We hope that further development of a human rights policy will expose the salient risks of supporting National Rifle Association (NRA) financing and pipelines.
CLIMATE CHANGE/WORKING FOR CLIMATE SOLUTIONS
Chevron, Coca Cola, Conoco Philips, Southern Company, Amazon, All banks, and many other companies.
In Laudato Si, Pope Francis had his finger on the essence of what caused the pandemic and it is profoundly scary (#44, 45). The urgency and scale of the climate crisis is looming like never before as we continue to urge companies to reduce their carbon footprint, methane emissions, and report disclosures according to the Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).
We encourage you to watch this video about global warming.
The company is aware of its large footprint and is working on several salient risks. An investor/company meeting during ICCR week (3/4/2020) focused on Climate Action 100 and raised core issues of sustainability which are discussed regularly with relevant committees and the full board of directors. The company is reviewing its Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) guidelines for reporting and the board will revisit them this summer. The company is studying its climate resilience by using a tool/process developed by Business for Social Responsibility and considering new greenhouse gas (GHG) targets, including the possibility of adopting a science-based target. The company has a commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals and are examining the practicality of tying them to executive compensation. The big focus at the moment is “A World without Waste” initiative to reduce plastic use and increase recycling of plastic packaging. https://www.coca-colacompany.com/faqs/what-is-world-without-waste
We cofiled our resolution because we have been in dialogue for several years about coal ash hazards and the company has not taken the necessary steps to mitigate the risks. It has had three significant coal ash spills since 2014 and spent millions of dollars but the company has not prepared for climate change and major storms as was demonstrated by the Environmental Integrity Project that ranked Duke’s coal ash storage site at Allen Steam Station to be the second worst in the nation. We also note that this is an environmental justice issue since an NAACP report found that people living near coal plants are “disproportionally poor and minorities.” (That’s six million people.)
Our four-hour meeting with Southern Company representatives took place at Convent Station on January 21, 2020. Major areas addressed were: planning for a low-carbon future, climate risk, aligning business with the Paris Agreement, retiring coal plants, coal ash and wastewater, the Just Transition, and many other topics. The company has made significant transitions in its fleet toward a 50% reduction in carbon gas emissions. The company continues to support community-based efforts of coastal, wetland, and stream-side ecosystems by collaborating with diverse partners, including environmental groups, NGOs, and schools.
CONTRACT SUPPLIERS/VENDOR STANDARDS/ETHICAL RECRUITMENT/TRAFFICKING/IMMIGRATION
GEO, Core Civic, Delta Airlines, Amazon, Coca Cola, American Airlines, Hershey, Macy’s, Target, Northrop Grumman, Walmart, Cotton Industry, Kroger
During this shareholder advocacy season, we have pressed numerous companies on immigration, worker rights, trafficking, ethical recruitment, and bonded labor; all are very much still evident across the globe. For this proxy season, we filed or cofiled four resolutions referencing immigration, including immigrant detention with Core Civic and GEO; biometric data usage with Northrop Grumman; and due diligence with Amazon. Immigrants and migrant workers are often exploited through discrimination, retaliation, debt bondage, and confiscation of wages through illegal reductions. Many times they are restricted in accessing personal documents, limited to freedom of movement which often leads to forced labor and trafficking. All of the above companies are encouraged to have strict guidelines in place for Ethical Recruitment of Workers.
Along with 314 other institutional investors and members of ICCR, we wrote letters to several companies acknowledging:
“That apparel companies face painful, unprecedented challenges in their operations, including employee layoffs and cuts to their bottom line. The COVID-19 pandemic is having an adverse impact on millions of workers in supply chains around the world. We are committed to protecting workers and requested their investee companies to show leadership by, among other things, maintaining supplier relationships, including prompt payments to suppliers for goods and services rendered in accordance with their binding contractual terms. Due to the repercussions of COVID-19, many of the 40 million workers in global apparel supply chains face loss of work with little or no compensation, even for work already undertaken. A recent survey of Bangladesh apparel suppliers by Penn State University’s Center for Global Workers’ Rights found that more than half had the bulk of their already completed production canceled. More than one million garment workers in Bangladesh have already been fired or furloughed as a result of order cancellations and the failure of buyers to pay for these cancellations. The situation in Bangladesh is replicated in other countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, and India where apparel production is a major source of export revenue. Due to poverty wages, these workers typically have no savings on which to fall back. Migrant workers face particular hardship. The International Organization of Migration has underscored the vulnerability of migrant workers who, in normal times, begin employment in “isolation, indecent accommodation, lack of understanding the local language, and culture as well as the potential of debt-bondage…Now add the pandemic. They are often the first to lose their job, lack access to healthcare, and live in crammed shared spaces with poor living conditions.”
We continue to work with As You Sow and Responsible Sourcing and signed the Turkmen Cotton Pledge asking companies to not knowingly source cotton from Turkmenistan. We believe it is essential for companies and their industry associations to acknowledge and address the well-documented use of modern slavery in Turkmen cotton production. Through responsible sourcing we are assisting to develop the YESS Initiative (Yarn Ethically and Sustainably Sourced). Learn more here: https://www.antislavery.org/what-we-do/uzbekistan-turkmenistan/.
Target has a cross-functional team that ensures that they are meeting their goals and have the responsibility to access how they can improve their standards in every line of business. They recognized the lack of transparency from vendors, the need for responsible recruitment of workers, the ongoing importance of chemical safety, pesticide regulations, and the importance of addressing waste management and recycling. Target has been commended for its best practices and transparency in pursuing product safety.
The company has been part of our dialogues for several years and has had very good policies for both suppliers and private brands. Their vendor and supplier codes of conduct require suppliers to ensure that their merchandise is produced in workplaces that meet international requirements for safety, work, and human dignity. Presently the company is experiencing a downturn coupled with the effects of the coronavirus and has postponed dialogues until later in the summer.
After several years of consistent improvement in its social compliance and third-party auditing program, Kroger recently published a comprehensive policy dealing with Covid-19 titled “Blueprint for Business.” Focused primarily on the safety of employees, suppliers, and customers, this document guides a company-wide strategy to operate this essential business during the pandemic responsibly.
CHEMICAL FOOTPRINT PROJECT, PRODUCT SAFETY, PLASTICS
Hasbro, Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Lowe’s, Walmart, Target
Our main initiative right now is to ask companies to check all aspects of product safety—from plastics to chemicals—with a focus on the Chemical Footprint Project (CFP).
You might be a little shocked when you visit “Mind the Store Campaign” website but I think a trip is worth it. You’ll see the retailer’s report card and note the scores of several of the companies we work with need to improve product safety. https://retailerreportcard.com/2019/11/retailer-rankings-2019/
Our recent dialogue was very productive in light of the CFP as the company continued its commitment to being a signatory. Added to that they were very transparent on the fact that our last discussion opened their eyes to the fact that they did not have an actual chemical policy, though they have an excellent product safety policy which includes a chemical management policy for suppliers. The company will share a draft policy with us over the summer. Because they are a global company, it is difficult to meet a variety of international standards but we agreed to seek progress rather than perfection. We noted that the company has a very robust human rights policy that is implemented across the supply chain.
Last year’s resolution on the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the implementation of a chemical policy has yielded some progress but there’s little change in the company’s overall sense of sustainability. The company did participate in the CFP and received a low score but it is willing to participate again this year. The company did release its sustainability report in April and identified 17 chemicals that they are removing from their products. Dollar Tree representatives do not seem to be fully aware of the reputational risks involved in their lack of disclosing safer chemicals management practices. Presently we are doing a gap analysis of their framework and intend to ask questions at the AGM in June.
Due to Dollar General’s poor response, we sent two letters requesting a dialogue with the company. The essence of the letters was to encourage Dollar General to adopt and implement a process of safer chemical management in order to mitigate risks and protect human and environmental health from harmful chemicals, including pesticides and other hazardous agrochemicals. Dollar General must demonstrate its commitment to safer chemical management by joining industry peers, including Walmart, Target, and CVS, and by becoming a signatory to the CFP. Other requests for a dialogue are in process.
ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE
AmerisourceBergen, Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer
Our work with the healthcare industry is divided into domestic and global issues. ICCR’s efforts, under the direction of program director Meg Jones-Monteiro, focus primarily on the affordability of drugs domestically and access to life-saving drugs globally. Additionally, Investors for Opioid and Pharmaceutical Accountability is a new coalition consisting of ICCR investors and larger secular investors.
A recent dialogue revealed that AmerisourceBergen continues to experience problems in effectively monitoring the distribution of opioid-based medicines. Although enhancing policies to mitigate diversion of these drugs, and working collaboratively with competitors as well as government agencies, suspicious orders still are reported. An appropriate shareholder resolution will be considered to emphasize our concern over the lack of progress in protecting the public.
As a strategy of the ICCR health group, it filed resolutions tying executive compensation to the pricing of drugs. Analysis by a European investment group concluded that most pharmaceutical companies gained profits primarily by price increases. A recent dialogue produced an agreement to revise corporate language regarding their pricing policies. We decided, along with cofilers and the lead Mercy Investment Services, to withdraw the resolution.
As primary filer on the issue of an independent chair of the board, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia and cofilers received 44.6% of the vote. In addition, we participated in a dialogue engagement on global health issues, including the company’s merger with Celgene, its ranking on the Access to Medicines Index, and its access strategies. BMS committed to improve disclosure of access data available to investors and the public.
Filing with the company requesting an independent board chair, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia achieved 34% of the vote. It is disturbing that Pfizer replaced their retiring chair/cEO with another insider holding both positions. The company emphasizes their desire to retain flexibility in their governance practices. Engagement with the company will continue.
ACCESS TO FOOD & NUTRITION
Aramark, Campbell Soup, Hormel, McDonald’s, Yum Brands
Our work with food companies has developed over the past several years, moving from childhood obesity to broader nutrition issues. Targeting children and communities of color with advertisements promoting unhealthy foods is a long-term problem and the development of numerous social media platforms is imperative to getting commitments from all companies to market responsibly. Our work with companies on antibiotics in meat included a goal of eliminating the use of antibiotics important to human medicine.
Aramark, a Philadelphia-based company, is a corporate leader in the field of food waste. Working collaboratively with the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Agriculture, they reduced more than 15 million pounds of waste since 2015. Our primary focus recently has been on the presence of antibiotics in the meat they source. Their antibiotic position statement lacked metrics for reducing medically important antibiotics in beef and pork products but the lack of progress is primarily due to inaction at the supplier level. Our recent dialogue introduced a new topic: prison labor.
Engagements with this company have focused on nutrition and water impacts of operations. Campbell Soup, due to the nature of the primary product, is mostly concerned with sodium levels of their soups. They have experimented with various formulations, balancing limited sodium levels with taste. Continued engagements are warranted due to products made by subsidiaries Prego, Pepperidge Farm, Kettle Brand, and others.
Hormel’s efforts to reduce the presence of antibiotics in its meat is limited by the lack of progress in the pork and beef industries. An obvious solution is to raise these animals in more humane and spacious conditions, thus eliminating the need to infuse antibiotics into feed. However, it is much cheaper for the producers to house the animals in cramped cages and feed them antibiotics. The industry requires systemic change.
As lead investors engaging with McDonald’s on nutrition concerns and food waste and supporting participants on antibiotics, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia have had an active voice in pressing the company to move toward more responsible behavior. Although McDonald’s will never be considered a retailer of generally healthy foods, our goal has been for them to balance their menu with more healthy choices, reformulate kids’ meals, replace items such as soda with better options, and commit to responsible marketing practices. Despite significant progress, McDonald’s continues to contribute to the wide-spread obesity problem in the U.S. and throughout the world.
Similar to McDonald’s, this global restaurant retailer uses a franchisee model which complicates the company’s efforts on compliance. Unlike their competitor, Yum Brands operates three very distinct brands: KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. These three menus must meet the company’s nutrition standards regarding sodium, sugar, fat, and calories. Corporate nutritionists work with each segment to attempt to reduce negative components of their food. A point of contention is that Yum claims that they do not serve kids’ meals and don’t feel it is necessary to focus on advertising to kids. Therefore they resist our suggestions to join the Children’s Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative.
Altria, Disney, NBC Universal, Philip Morris, Walgreens
Continuing our work with tobacco producers, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia filed a resolution requesting the board of directors to review corporate adherence to Altria’s principles and policies aimed at discouraging the use of their nicotine delivery products to young people. Our proposal received a strong vote of 37%. Despite Altria’s insistence that their products are only marketed and made available to adults, high school and even middle school-aged youth still consume cigarettes, especially e-cigarettes, at alarming rates.
Disney’s tobacco depiction policy has allowed it to be a leader in minimizing exposure of smoking images to young people. Their acquisition of Fox’s movie business, whose tobacco performance is less than stellar, caused concern. A recent dialogue with Disney revealed that the entire portfolio of Fox movies, both present and future releases, will be subject to Disney standards. Streaming services and other new media platforms will be a focus of ICCR’s future work in this area.
Because of a long-time engagement requesting the company to cease sales of all tobacco and nicotine-based products, we attended the 2020 annual shareholders meeting and were granted a private meeting with the chairman of the board, James Skinner. He reiterated their intention to continue tobacco sales but we stated our perspective that a healthcare retailer promoting a deadly product is antithetical to their mission to improve their customers’ health.
American Outdoor Brands, Sturm Ruger, Walmart
We filed a resolution asking the company to adopt a policy affirming the continuation of in-person annual meetings in addition to internet access to the meeting, to adjust its corporate practices accordingly, and to publicize this policy to investors. The proposal outlined the problems inherent in moving to a virtual-only annual general meeting, especially for a company facing the unique regulatory and reputational risks of a gun manufacturer. A virtual-only meeting limits investors’ access to management and filters and controls what needs to be an open and honest dialogue. The resolution was challenged at the SEC and we withdrew.
We officially withdrew our resolution on human rights assessment in order to get an opportunity to have any dialogue with the company. We were asked to sign a “Confidentiality Agreement” so that a core group of two or three ICCR members might be able to have a dialogue. It was a very unsettling action but it may open the door to some change.
We had a very productive dialogue with Walmart about gun violence by appealing to the moral voice of the company to address the nation, especially after the El Paso shooting on Walmart’s property. The CEO, Mr. McMillon, did listen to ICCR and other stakeholders by publicly endorsing a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, strengthening background checks and red flag laws, and raising the minimum age to 21. Walmart is conducting the appropriate due diligence to access the risks, change its policies, and provide public leadership. The company has made progress in several other business lines, including human rights because of the ICCR caucus group and the continued monitoring of the company across all businesses.
Through the work of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), we have been part of ongoing discussions and interventions around Israeli/Palestine issues related to human rights and surveillance in the region. Our letter to Microsoft questioned why Microsoft was a shareholder of Any Vision Technologies which possibly does surveillance and facial recognition of the West Bank. Microsoft did its due diligence and has decided that it would divest of Any Vision because it could not do the level of oversight needed. Kudos to Microsoft! Our group will continue to review this issue with other companies in that region. Recently we had a strategy call and we will have a company dialogue in the near future.
Generally, issues of public policy have an impact on our shareholder advocacy work and vice versa. We have met with state representatives on the environmental impacts of natural gas pipelines, methane, and the Chester incinerator environmental justice issue. We have cosigned letters to USDA on worker safety in meat processing plants and to the FDA on nutrition innovation policy. We have joined public campaigns to pressure our representatives to initiate greater oversight of the distribution of opioid medications. The CSR office has reached out to our federal and state representatives through emails, letters, phone calls, and in-person meetings to urge them toward action benefitting society. We have cooperative and productive relationships with Pennsylvania Representatives Leanne Krueger, Greg Vitali, and Tom Killion as well as Congressional House Representatives Mary Kay Scanlon and Madeline Dean. We will continue to seek public policy support for justice, equality, equal employment, and access to capital. We will continue to prevent the growth of the American Legislative Exchange Council which drafts state laws for many states that are often unconstitutional and anti-climate change. During the month of June, we will participate in the virtual public hearing of PA Control of VOC Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Sources. We also participated in Public Hearings coordinated by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) related to the reduction of methane in Pennsylvania.
This year we were privileged to have a Franciscan volunteer, Katherine Stevick, serve in our office. Katherine joined us in early January after working at our CSA farm. When the winter weather slowed outdoor activities, Katherine, without missing a beat, transitioned from her farm duties to the CSR office, providing vital research, dialogue participation, and a calming grace to our department. The coronavirus pandemic ended Katherine’s time with us and ushered her back to her family in Western New York State. She is presently contemplating serving in AmeriCorps for the summer.
We will continue to nudge and challenge companies in our investment portfolio to be diligent in their responsibilities for environmental, social, and governance practices (ESG). We recognize the importance of proxy voting to advance gender equality on corporate boards. As we face the double pandemic of the coronavirus and the climate crisis, we will do everything possible to promote the common good with the now serious responsibility to address systemic racism. We urge you to remain active in your civic responsibilities. VOTE and get others to VOTE
Watch “Lockdown” the poem by Brother Richard Hendrick, animated.