Faith-based investors examine key issues for 2020

November 6, 2019
 woman speaking at podium

Pictured above, Caroline Boden, shareholder advocacy manager, presents at an ICCR session. 

The annual fall meeting of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) included more than 18 sessions that brought together ICCR members from faith-based organizations as well as asset managers and union representatives.   

  • Health topics remain a key focus for both Mercy Investment Services and ICCR members, and Mercy Investments continues to co-lead the expanded Investors for Opioid and Pharmaceutical Accountability (IOPA), which now has 58 public, faith-based, labor, asset managers and sustainability funds holding $4.3 trillion in assets under management. The session presented an overview of the first two years’ work, which includes a 52% success rate in getting the companies engaged to agree to investor requests such as changing certain practices or issuing specific reports. Discussion also focused on plans for the 2020 proxy year such as risk-related board oversight, pricing issues, and independent chair and CEO resolutions. 
  • Parents Against Vaping shared an educational presentation on vaping, a new concern on the long-term engagement issue of tobacco. Mercy Investments and other ICCR partners will engage on this topic for the first time with several companies this year.  
  • The human trafficking and worker rights session discussed the significance and implications of the August 2019 Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation signed by 181 CEOs to shift from the shareholder primacy model to a stakeholder model and what it means for worker rights in operations and global supply chains. In addition to specific and dedicated work in the area of human rights, ICCR members continue to consider the impact of all engagement areas on human rights. 
  • Lobbying and political spending also remains a key engagement area for ICCR members and Mercy Investments, as transparency, disclosure and internal corporate alignment are important. For example, a company with stated goals on greenhouse gas reduction goals shouldn’t provide financial contributions to trade associations that deny climate change. Also, being an election year, corporations’ contributions to various political funding mechanisms should be transparent. 
  • Environmental sessions again covered the areas of climate crisis, mining, water, and fossil fuel engagement. The water session focused on the societal and environmental impacts of factory farms, specifically integrated meat producers with representatives from the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, Sipsey Heritage Commission and Cape Fear River Watch presenting their perspectives of the impact on the local community and environment of large meat producers. At the climate crisis session, Graystone Consulting presented on physical and transition-related climate risks for investments. 
  • A panel discussion called “Taking a Stand: Corporate Action to Protect Human Rights Defenders,” brought together perspectives of a number of experts in the field to share and discuss current understanding of the issues with ICCR participants.

ICCR conferences provide the opportunity to finalize planning for the upcoming proxy year, learn about new and developing topic areas for engagement, and reinforce community ties with others working toward the same goals.