International

Shareholders address COVID-19 response with companies

June 26, 2020
coronavirus illustration

As the effects of COVID-19 continue to ripple through communities, Mercy Investment Services has expanded company engagements to address issues surrounding the pandemic and companies’ responses, particularly to aspects of their business operations affecting people and their communities.

  • Most pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors reported that their priorities during the pandemic were to: (1) protect the well-being and safety of employees and colleagues; (2) ensure a continued supply of medicines, vaccines, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to patients around the globe; and (3) develop new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
  • Airlines, one of the hardest hit industries, have expanded their role in the transportation of essential medical and household supplies, implemented enhanced sanitation procedures for aircraft and airport facilities, and adopted policies and measures to protect workers, such as expanding paid leave benefits and providing PPE. Airlines including American, Delta, Southwest and United require employees and customers to wear face masks on board.
  • The retail sector’s experience and response has varied. Apparel retailers have been hit particularly hard, while food retailers (groceries) were deemed essential businesses and continued operating. Mercy and other ICCR members are pushing retailers, including Kroger, to provide short- and long-term financial, medical and leave protections to workers. Mercy joined other investors asking apparel companies such as Amazon, Target and Under Armour to examine how the pandemic has impacted workers in their supply chain and to support their suppliers.                                    
  • Amazon has been under significant scrutiny for workers’ testimonies of continued unsafe working conditions in warehouses and fulfillment centers. Investors continue to call on the company to provide PPE, paid sick leave, and increased attention to the safety of employees, including disclosing the number of employees testing positive.
  • Meatpacking and poultry processing plants have emerged as dangerous hot spots in the U.S. for COVID-19. For years, investors have raised many of the risk factors that led to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in meat processing plants—crowded working conditions, lack of sick leave, and a workforce that is both poorly paid and often afraid to or unable to raise issues due to language barriers and immigration status. Mercy joined investors in expressing these concerns to Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, Smithfield/WH Group and Hormel and have held dialogues asking them to address these concerns and to prevent the spread of the disease in their facilities and nearby communities as they continue operations.  

 

Mercy Investment Services will continue to monitor each company’s actions and to advocate for positive change to help minimize the effect of the pandemic.