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Jesuits Advocate as Shareholders for Human Rights and Environment

BY ISN STAFFApril 12, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States issued its annual report detailing the Jesuit shareholder advocacy efforts during 2015. The investment responsibility efforts are a collaborative project of the U.S. and Canadian Jesuit provinces in partnership with the Jesuit Conference. Provinces hold stock in strategically identified corporations pertaining to advocacy priorities of the Jesuits in North America as well as internationally.

Jesuit-CIR_2015Noting that the Jesuits did not invent the shareholder advocacy movement, the report describes their efforts as part of a larger faith-based coalition, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). Stock holdings allow Jesuit province representatives to enter into shareholder dialogues with each corporation where concerns about environmental justice and human rights issues can be shared and requests for changes in corporate behavior can be made.

Demonstrating the Jesuit Commitment to Marginalized

“Our work in these areas reflects our profound commitment to the people and the communities that are affected by the activities carried out by the corporations with whom we engage,” said Fr. William Kelley, S.J., secretariat for social and international ministry at the Jesuit Conference. Kelley continued, “We believe that, when corporations operate at both their highest performance level and their highest ethical level, they and the communities where they operate will benefit.”

The Jesuits define their shareholder advocacy strategy in the following way:

The Jesuit Committee on Investment Responsibility (JCIR) promotes social change in corporate practices through shareholder engagement. In light of Jesuit apostolic preferences, JCIR identifies social and economic justice priorities and collaborates with other religious institutional investors to advocate for corporate social responsibility.We strive to support internationally recognized norms for community and economic sustainability, environmental justice and human rights. We present the fiduciary case that Catholic Social Teaching principles (such as respect for human life, environmental stewardship, sustainable development, rights of workers and communities) best serve the interest of all stakeholders and therefore preserve shareholder value. JCIR respectfully engages selected companies on issues in which we have proficiency, interest and capacity.

What corporations are the Jesuits in dialogue with?

Corporations where the Jesuits are currently invested and are engaged in dialogue include: GEO Group, a company that operates private prisons, where the dialogue focuses on the adoption, integration, and evaluation of a comprehensive human rights policy that GEO formally adopted; Bunge, an agricultural company where the Jesuits are seeing progress regarding responsible water stewardship and sustainable sourcing; Ingredion, an agricultural products company that transforms corn, tapioca and other starches into ingredients for the food, beverage, brewing and pharmaceutical industries, where water stewardship is also a key dialogue issue.

The Jesuits also entered into a new dialogue with the Toronto-based Aura Minerals, after consultation with Honduran Jesuits working for human rights in an alarmingly violent reality in Central America’s Northern Triangle. In addition to widespread criminality, the world’s highest murder rate (90.4/100,000), and massive family displacement, Honduras enacted a new mining law in 2013 which relaxes oversight of the mining sector.

A Dialogue of Success: Monsanto

The 2015 annual report also notes the termination of a dialogue with Monsanto. The report states that Monsanto’s addressed and set up risk management practices and assessments on human rights and environmental concerns within the company and in their sphere of influence in 35 countries, over the past ten years of dialogue, by implementing a robust communications and training plan on human rights with their employees, their business partners and other external shareholders.

The full report can be read here. To learn more about the Jesuit Committee on Investment Responsibility visit here.

2 replies
  1. Sheila Ryder
    Sheila Ryder says:

    I don’t know if this applies to you, but what I don’t understand how the Jesuits, as shareholders for Human Rights and the Environment still have their money in Bank of America one of the biggest offenders of Human Rights.

  2. Mercy
    Mercy says:

    The idea of giving corporations a “goodhousekeeping” type seal is a GREAT idea – let the corporations be open to inspection and allow them to be rated on :
    a) transparency (not the thickly veiled gobbledy gook of 10-k alone),
    b) fair wages from CEO down (CEOs paid more than 10x the lowest worker in wages benefits stock options are to be flagged with a big red bow! in a world of 6.5 billion people there’ll be no shortage of anyone to take over their jobs)
    c) worker representation on Compensation committee boards to keep CEOs from looting the till
    d) fair working conditions – eg. while they trot around in their private jets from all-expense paid conferences and other thinly veiled excuses for vacations, the typical worker world over hikes to work 350 days of the year in most excruciatingly difficult ways – even DC metros and beltway are no pie in the sky commutes though still better than what Mumbai and Bangkok probably have to deal with.
    e) Healthcare and benefits for workers
    f) Consumer fairness – no shoddy or imaginary goods sold under shoddy terms
    g) Committment to local communities and country by making sure tax and freebees extracted are reinvested in the communities where businesses are located
    h) no tax dodging
    i) another big red flag: extent to which tax avoidance is a permanent business strategy instead of a small end of year exercise like hardworking individuals do
    j) offshoring and tax havening –
    And as to the companies that ICCR has just given its seal of approval – I feel that companies are VERY VERY adept at putting out slick sounding position papers and solemn intentions, alongwith with jargony things like “key success factors” using some easy hoodwinking metrics.. Monsanto’s business model itself is a case in point – their express goal is to create a choke point for farmers – theirs is the new “bonded labor” contract where farmers are enslaved to the single- harvest non-reproducible and exhorbitantly expensive Monsanto seed bank which poor farmers in developing countries like India cannot afford to payoff from the sale of grain. I would say food, water, cooking and heating fuels are core utilities that governments must ensure are produced and sold at fair and just terms. So I would review Monsanto’s business operations carefully to see whether they deserve to be taken off the hook yet!!


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