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2004 Shareholder Advocacy Season
In 2004, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (CSRI) presented several resolutions to business corporations on social issues. We made these filings together with other members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).
We again co-filed a resolution with ExxonMobil asking them to include non-discrimination based on sexual orientation in their written equal employment policy. Exxon is one of the few among Fortune 100 companies that has yet to make this amendment.
We also co-filed with both ChevronTexaco and Glaxo Smith Kline on the issue of HIV/AIDS in Africa, requesting that they analyze the economic effects on their business of the pandemic caused by HIV-AIDS/TB and Malaria. A recent World Bank report warned, "a complete economic collapse will occur" unless there is a response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in southern Africa. Even "a delay in responding to the outbreak of the epidemic, however, can lead to collapse." ChevronTexaco operates in 50 African countries and employs 15,000 people in Africa.
The UUA has an ongoing partnership with the New York City Comptroller's Office (NYCERS). We have recruited presenters from the ranks of our local Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations to attend annual meetings and present resolutions on several social issues. For example, the Employees Retirement System filed a shareowner resolution asking 11 companies among Fortune's 500 largest businesses throughout the country to explicitly bar discrimination based on sexual orientation. Full story >
A member of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, Portia Hamilton-Sperr, representing the UUA and the New York City pension systems, presented the fund's resolution at the annual meeting of the Walt Disney Company in Philadelphia in March. This resolution concerned the implementation of Disney's human rights labor standards in China. A leading Chinese human rights group, Christian Industrial Committee based in Hong Kong, found violations of Disney's corporate code of conduct at the toy factories of their suppliers in south China. The resolution asked for better enforcement of Disney's stated human rights standards and a report back to shareholders in the future, on their implementation. While the resolution had not been expected to pass at this annual meeting, it did receive a larger than anticipated percentage of votes from shareholders as compared to previous years.
The CSRI recruited several other UUs from around the country to speak in favor of resolutions on other socially responsible issues. The sexual orientation issue included ExxonMobil (Susan Gore of the First Unitarian Church in Dallas) and ALL TEL, the Arkansas telephone company (Andy Kessel from the UU Church in Little Rock).
Susan Gore also presented a resolution to Home Depot requesting its adoption of global human rights standards based on the International Labor Organization's principles. This issue was also presented by UUs to other companies including Kinder Morgan Company (the Rev. Mark Edmiston-Lange of the Emerson Unitarian Church in Houston) who also presented to Crown Castle International on the issue of equal employment in Northern Ireland based on the MacBride Principles. The Crane Company also was asked by David Bue, a member of the UU Church in Stamford, CT, to adopt these MacBride Principles.
In April, a member of the First Unitarian Church in Chicago, Pat Lucas, attended the official annual meeting of PepsiAmericas and presented a proposal dealing with the issue of recycling their soft-drink bottles.
The resolution that Tom Clayton and Shellie Mason of the UU Church of Greensboro, NC, presented requested the VF Company to implement a code of conduct for its international suppliers, as well as its own international production facilities, and further seeks a commitment to independent monitoring of compliance with these standards. At t he annual meeting of Men's Wearhouse, held at the end of June, the Rev. Tom Capo of the Spindletop Unitarian Church in Beaumont, TX, proposed the adoption of a similar resolution.
The UUA's agreement with NYCERS, the pension funds for NYC's employees, has allowed the filing of many more resolutions because we are able to find socially-active UUs to attend local meetings throughout the country to make these presentations.
The CSRI also initiated a letter writing campaign to more than 200 publicly held companies throughout the country, asking them to favorably consider adopting the Equality Principles promulgated by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) community. These include three key principles: written nondiscrimination policies that include ‘sexual orientation'; inclusion in these policies of ‘gender identity or expression'; and the provision of employee benefits for domestic partners. We will evaluate the responses we get from these letters over the summer, and decide which companies should receive more formal requests next year to improve their corporate policies. Resolutions are being drafted for this purpose.