By Sister Ethel Howley, SSND
For over 50 years, religious shareholders have been calling the world’s most powerful companies to address their impacts on people and on our planet. Centered on a variety of faith based traditions, these shareholders come together through the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and/or the Investors Advocates for Social Justice (IASJ). They research the policies and practices of corporations within a given industry, and then call for a meeting with a company’s executives responsible for their environmental and human rights practices. If the dialogue seems to be bringing together a mutual understanding of shareholder concerns and the possibility of plans for some significant changes in company operations, both parties then agree to follow up with future up dates. If there seems to be no possibility for changes or updates in company operations, a resolution is filed to be voted on by all company shareholders.
During the last season, DOW, an American multinational chemical corporation with 54,000 employees in 160 countries, agreed to commission a third-party racial equity audit. DOW agreed to this audit after its dialogue with four shareholders, including SSND Cooperative Investment Fund (CIF) and an IASJ staff member. A law firm, experienced in working with other leading companies on civil rights and equity audits, will assess how Dow’s US operations, products, policies and services support racial equity.
In September 2022, Time Magazine headlined an article “Some Nuns and Bishops Are Taking on the U.S.'s Biggest Gun Maker,” that referred to, Smith & Wesson. At the same time, SSND CIF filed a similar proposal with another gun manufacturer, Strum, Ruger & Company in Southport, CT concerning the human rights impacts of its policies and products. It received a high majority vote.
To Exxon Mobil Corporation, with whom the SSND CIF holds a minimum number of shares, CIF filed a resolution calling for a report on financial statements related to climate related estimates, such as decreasing fossil fuel, and this also received a majority vote.
Together with other shareholders through dialogues and the filing of resolutions, I continue to advocate for a just transition to a low-carbon economy by reducing emissions in line with a 1.5-degree C, and also ensuring a just transition for workers and communities. I also advocate for the most vulnerable communities and those most affected by climate change while advocating for robust corporate human rights due diligence.
Inspired by Teilhard de Chardin, I constantly examine his idea that “Union with God is not a withdrawal or separation from the activity of the world but a dedicated, integrated, and sublimated absorption into it.”