Investors make the business and moral case for a human rights policy aligned with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to help curb escalating gun violence.
NEW YORK, NY – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30TH, 2021 - In a prepared statement she read to present a shareholder proposal requesting the adoption of a human rights policy filed by her order, the Adrian Dominican Sisters, at this week’s Smith & Wesson annual general meeting, Sr. Judy Byron said, “Our advocacy on gun safety has been characterized by Smith & Wesson management as a ruse whose real intention is to put the company out of business and to abolish the second amendment. We have always said this is not our agenda. Again, we seek to make the business, the products and the consumers who buy them, safer. We seek - as everyone here must surely do - to save lives.”
In SEC filings made public yesterday, the shareholder vote was reported as 43.9% in favor, a clear signal that many of Byron’s fellow shareholders share her gun safety agenda. The vote exceeds the 36% support received by a similar proposal filed in 2019 and demonstrates shareholders’ mounting concern with the company’s lack of attention to the growing risks of gun violence.
The proposal asked Smith & Wesson to adopt a comprehensive human rights policy, including a description of the processes the company will use to identify, assess, prevent and mitigate adverse human rights impacts.
Proponents submitted the proposal out of concern that Smith & Wesson has no process in place to identify and analyze human rights risks in its business and operations, which is especially problematic given the lethal nature of the company’s products. The proposal asked Smith & Wesson to join leading companies such as Microsoft, Hershey, Shell, Coca-Cola and Adidas that have committed to conducting human rights due diligence in order to manage risks, minimize harm, and protect their social license to operate.
According to an exempt solicitation filed in response to the company’s opposition statement, “Smith & Wesson argues that the proposal would interfere with the company’s ‘ongoing ESG efforts’, including the Corporate Stewardship Policy, its media monitoring program, and ‘a framework for revamping [the Company’s] ESG approach’, which is now under way. That contention is undermined by the fact that none of these efforts deals with human rights.”
Said Byron, “Rather than embrace the enhanced risk management structures a human rights policy would provide, the company chooses to remain recalcitrant and hostile to any efforts to engage on gun safety. When S&W could be a leader in advancing solutions and systems to prevent the misuse of its products by consumers, it chooses instead to fight against the tide. How long will it be before it is forced to make these changes in response to gun safety legislation or the will of a majority of its shareholders?”
The 2021 shareholder proposal is the third filed by the investors who are members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility; a 2018 proposalrequesting a report on gun safety passed with over 60% support and a proposal nearly identical to this year’s filing requesting a human rights policy received 36% support in 2019. It was re-filed in 2020 and survived a challenge at the SEC but the proponents offered to withdraw it in exchange for a conversation with management. Unfortunately, the provisions management insisted on for that conversation were so onerous the proponents felt they were left no option but to rescind the offer.
Said Byron, “The proxy process is not our preferred method of corporate engagement. In fact, we were able to convene a very cordial and productive dialogue with team members at Sturm Ruger last year. These conversations build trust and a desire to achieve a common understanding. Our invitation to Smith & Wesson management to dialogue with us in good faith and in a transparent manner remains open.”
About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
Celebrating its 50th year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. Its 300-member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs and other socially responsible investors with combined assets of over $4 trillion. ICCR members engage hundreds of corporations annually in an effort to foster greater corporate accountability. Visit our website www.iccr.org and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.