People of faith have consistently spoken out about the social impact of investments. Religious leaders of all faiths have long recognized how invested capital can bring about social change both by funding solutions and opportunities (impact investing) and discouraging practices and policies through the withdrawal/withholding of investments (screens or divestment).
But in 1971, the founders of our organization discovered a third, more nuanced and much more powerful investment strategy in attempting to respond to the human rights abuses occurring under the racist apartheid system in South Africa.
When founding member and lawyer Paul Neuhauser asked his pastor what his church could do to intervene on behalf of black South Africans his pastor responded "You are the Church."
While earlier shareholder resolutions had been filed by individual investors like the Gilbert Brothers on governance topics, Paul drafted the first religious shareholder proposal with a social theme on behalf of the Episcopal church and filed it at General Motors in March of 1971: The proposal requested that until such time as apartheid was abolished, GM withdraw its business from South Africa. And thus, ICCR and the shareholder advocacy movement, was born.
Over four decades from ICCR's founding, shareholders around the world continue to join our ranks recognizing that, by acting in coalition with like-minded investors we are able to improve corporate practices on vital environmental, social and governance concerns and, in doing so, build more sustainable, financially resilient companies.
Today, ICCR members are the churches and other religious organizations, the universities, unions, banks, foundations, asset management companies and all the other institutions and individuals that are the committed, persistent and faithful voices for justice.
For more ICCR history, Listen in to The Arc of Change: The ICCR Story (podcast). Episode 9