2002 Shareholder Advocacy Season
ExxonMobil Feels the Heat
In 2001 and 2002, the Unitarian Unilversalist Association filed shareholder resolutions with ExxonMobil, pushing for an official policy of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Sinkford Letter to Federated Department Stores Regarding Rugmark
November 16, 2001
Mr. James Zimmerman
Federated Department Stores, Inc.
7 West Seventh Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202-2471
By fax: (513) 579-7185
Dear Mr. Zimmerman,
As the leader of more than 1,050 Unitarian Universalist congregations in North America, I write to you to express our concern over the use of child labor in the hand-made carpet industry. In cooperation with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and Walden Asset Management, the Unitarian Universalist Association strongly encourages Federated Department Stores to support the Rugmark Foundation and to carry Rugmark -labeled carpets in all of your carpet concessions. We believe that this is an excellent opportunity for Federated and its vendors to live up to all aspects of your Code of Conduct by publicly reaffirming your opposition to profiting from products made by the sweat and toil of children.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, abusive child labor in the carpet industry is widely documented in India, Nepal, and Pakistan. More than a million children work long hours in confined, dimly lit workshops. Many develop respiratory illnesses, spinal deformities, and cuts and wounds from sharp tools. These are wounds that destroy their childhoods and leave scars that last a lifetime. The United States is the world's largest consumer for hand knotted carpets, and we Unitarian Universalists believe that we have a moral and ethical responsibility to see that these products are not manufactured by the abused labor of children.
The Rugmark Foundation is a unique and independent organization working to end exploitative child labor in the hand knotted carpet industry in South Asia. Carrying the Rugmark label offers consumers the best possible assurance that their carpet or rug was not made with child labor. Rugmark, supported by child welfare organizations worldwide such as UNICEF, attempts to reverse abusive child labor practices by moving children away from carpet looms and into schools. As an independent nonprofit organization, Rugmark has objective independent monitoring processes embedded in its licensing operations. We are unaware of any other consumer-interest, carpet certification program that matches Rugmark's success or integrity. Complete information about Rugmark and their extraordinary work can be found on their website at www.rugmark.org.
We understand from Walden Asset Management that Federated has had some discussions with Rugmark and with its carpet vendors. Our impression, however, is that Federated has decided to leave to its carpet vendors whether or not to carry and supply Rugmark carpets. Encouraging your carpet vendors and suppliers to participate in Rugmark seems a clear win-win situation for Federated and its customers.
We strongly encourage Federated to become the American retail leader on the issue of child labor in the hand-knotted carpet industry by endorsing Rugmark and asking its suppliers and vendors to supply Rugmark-licensed carpets. To this end, we hope that you will agree to send a management representative to meet with representatives of Walden Asset Management at the earliest possible date so that we can hear your views on this issue. Unitarian Universalists throughout North America eagerly await word that Federated Department Stores do not sell carpets produced by child labor.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Rev. William Sinkford