ICCR Commemorates 64th Anniversary of Universal Declaration on Human Rights
Shareholder Group Advocates for Inclusion of the Voices of the World’s Vulnerable in Corporate Decision-Making
NEW YORK, NY///December 10, 2012///Today, members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) celebrate the 64th anniversary of the signing of the UN Declaration on Human Rights and this year’s commemorative theme, “My Voice Counts”. ICCR is a coalition of faith-based and socially responsible investors representing nearly 300 organizations and over $100 billion in assets under management that first gained prominence by calling for calling for companies in the 1970s and 1980s to withdraw from apartheid South Africa.
Said ICCR’s David Schilling, Senior Program Director of Human Rights and Resources, “From the beginning, ICCR members have viewed their investments through the lens of human rights and asked how their role as shareholders can best support the voices of the world’s most vulnerable. Today, leading companies have a greater understanding of their ‘corporate responsibility’ to respect human rights as defined by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and recognize their role in preventing abuses in their operations and supply chains.”
“As faith-based investors, ICCR members are unique in their attention to the social impacts of business operations and have made vigilance around potential human rights violations a priority in all our company engagements,” said Sr. Kathleen Coll of Catholic Health East. “In the travel and tourism sector, for example, we have been successful in focusing companies on the risks of human trafficking and, as a result, many companies are now conducting formal employee trainings to help prevent these incidents. A noteworthy company is U.S. Airways, which has developed a strong human rights policy that specifically addresses trafficking, as well as a public awareness campaign that includes anti-trafficking ads in its in-flight magazine.”
In the extractives sector, where labor and human rights abuses are especially prevalent, ICCR members are encouraging mining and oil and gas companies to adopt human rights policies and implement them throughout their global supply chains.
Said Lauren Compere of Boston Common Asset Management, “The human rights risk is especially high in extractives and, by extension, the electronics and technology sectors where minerals such as tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold - potential conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo - are used in production. In our company engagements we underscore the importance of multi-stakeholder initiatives to trace minerals down to the smelter level. Investors welcome the new Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule on the “conflict minerals” provision of the Dodd-Frank Act which calls formandatory reporting to the SEC on raw material sourcing as a much needed step for highlighting supply chain risks and helping to end the violence in the DRC.”
An ICCR delegation has also just returned from northern Peru where it met with government officials, company representatives and local community groups some of which are protesting against the mining industry for its consumption and pollution of water in the water-scarce region.Said Julie Tanner of Christian Brothers Investment Services, “Corporations that aren’t attuned to human rights abuses can put their reputations and their bottom lines at risk, which is of great concern to investors. As responsible shareholders we want to ensure that our companies are collaborating with relevant stakeholders and, in particular, addressing the concerns of local community groups whose voices deserve to be heard. We want to ensure that the benefits of mining extend to impacted communities while the risks and environmental impacts are minimized.”
But the threat of human rights violations in the extractives sector isn’t confined to remote communities in distant lands. Here in the U.S. concerns about the impacts of hydraulic fracturing operations on local water supplies and public health have been raised by many community groups that feel outmatched by the power and influence of the gas industry. Said Sr. Nora Nash of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, “When we speak with members of the communities most impacted by fracking, what comes through loud and clear is their desire to have their voices heard. In our work to make extractives companies more sustainable, we insist that these community voices be counted, whether they live in Peru, the Congo or Pennsylvania. People have a right to drink safe water and not be concerned that drilling operations will make them sick. Companies must not only respect these human rights, they must make them the core of their business models.”
Added Schilling, “ICCR’s work in shareholder advocacy has always been about achieving a more just power balance between corporations and the communities in which they operate. We urge companies to make the voices of all stakeholders count, and the safeguarding of human rights a business priority.”
About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR):
Currently celebrating its 41st year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of active shareholders who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for change. Its 300 member organizations with over $100 billion in AUM have an enduring record of corporate engagement that has demonstrated influence on policies promoting justice and sustainability in the world.