Laudato Si’ Week 2022: How SGI Members Contribute to Structural Change

By Frank Sherman

Each of us – whoever and wherever we may be – can play our own part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and the degradation of our common home.”

Pope Francis, October 2021

The global Catholic Church celebrates Laudato Si’ Week 2022 over May 22-29 to mark the seventh anniversary of Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical on care for creation. It is meant to be a celebration, showing the world how much the Church has changed in these seven years by inspiring millions of Catholics to bring the whole human family together to protect our common home.

There are several resources available to participate in the week-long celebration including the Laudato Si’ Week website and the 7 Laudato Si’ Goals with online and offline activities as well as resources for prayer, study and action. The events will focus on biodiversity, responding to the cry of the poor, divestment, education, and eco-spirituality. The Catholic Climate Covenant is hosting an online discussion on Tuesday, May 24th at 12 p.m. CT to spotlight U.S. diocesan efforts to uplift Laudato Si’ (register here).

Also coming next week are annual shareholder meetings for some of America’s biggest corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters including ExxonMobil, Chevron and Amazon. Amazon received a record 20 shareholder resolutions, 4 of which were filed by SGI members. ExxonMobil received 8 proposals, half of which were filed by our members while SGI members filed 2 of the 7 proposals at Chevron.  

Many of these proposals asked for more climate disclosure, GHG reduction targets or transition plans. One such proposal filed with both Exxon and Chevron asks for an audited report assessing how applying the International Energy Agency’s “Net Zero by 2050” pathway would affect company financial statements, including carbon prices, retirement obligations and capital expenditures. Companies must adequately reflect the impacts of the climate crisis and the clean energy transition in their financial reporting if shareholders are to have confidence that their capital is being effectively allocated and assets do not become stranded. This is especially crucial for companies like Exxon and Chevron, whose business strategy appears to be built on continuing growth in demand for hydrocarbons for the next several decades.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report delivered a sobering message: we’re already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change and continuing the current trajectory equals catastrophe. Governments, businesses and civil society must do more before it’s too late. So as your communities and organizations celebrate the progress made in the past 7 years, SGI members are doing their part to impact the structure drivers of climate change through corporate engagements.

Walmart Hits a Double on Responsible Climate Lobbying Disclosure

By Frank Sherman

“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, profoundly affecting all regions of the world and all sectors of society. . . . Companies need to be part of the solution to manage physical and transition risk, maintain societal license to operate and create value for business and society through mitigation and adaptation initiatives that draw on unique business capabilities.”

Walmart, 2021 ESG Summary

At first glance, this may be mistaken as an excerpt from an environmental NGO website rather than from the largest corporation in the world. But Walmart has long been recognized by many as a leader in climate action.  They were the first retailer to obtain SBTi certified greenhouse gas (GHG) targets and the first to make a zero emissions commitment that does not rely on carbon offsets for scope 1 & 2 emissions. Committed to 100% renewable electricity by 2035, they have also been recognized as the top retail partner by the U.S. EPA Green Power Partnership. EPA’s SmartWay Excellence Award for shipping performance recognized Walmart for the fifth year in a row. Their award winning Project Gigaton targets a reduction of at least 30% of estimated scope 3 emissions by 2030. No wonder they made CDP Climate’s ‘A List’ for several years.

But one area where Walmart, along with many other companies, has fallen short is in its engagement on climate public policy. That’s why SGI member, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Central Pacific Province (SSND), filed a shareholder resolution with the Company, as part of a broader campaign coordinated by ICCR and Ceres. According to Influence Map, Transition Pathways Initiative and Ceres, Walmart’s direct lobbying is supportive of the Paris Agreement. The SSND proposal asked Walmart to evaluate whether their indirect lobbying activities through trade associations and social welfare and nonprofit organizations are aligned with the company’s support of the Paris Agreement goals. We also asked the company to be more public in their support of robust climate policies rather than engaging policy makers ‘in private.’ The proponents withdrew the proposal after the Company agreed to improve their disclosure.

Following the withdrawal, Walmart strengthened their Government Relations Policy and made extensive updates to their Engagement in public policy webpage, providing details on governance, policy positions, engagement process, and examples of positive advocacy. They published a list of trade associations to which Walmart contributed funds of $25,000 or more in 2021. They actively engage their trade associations to influence their public policy positions. They note that the Business Roundtable’s (BRT) position towards climate policy, although not as strong as we would like, improved as a result of Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon’s influence when he chaired the BRT.

To be fair, the goalpost on what constitutes “responsible climate lobbying” has been moving due to a number of factors including increasing calls from scientists for urgent action, such as the recent IPCC report. This culminated in the recently released Global Standard on Corporate Climate Lobbying describing 14 indicators to assess a company’s direct and indirect lobbying alignment with the Paris goal of limiting global temperature rise  to 1.5 degrees.

To be sure, there are areas where Walmart’s disclosure and practices can be improved. The main shortfall vs. the new global standard is the lack of a detailed public assessment of each trade association’s climate policy positions and how well it aligns with the Paris goals and the Company’s position. An increasing number of multinational companies are doing this assessment of their indirect climate lobbying through trade associations and nonprofits they fund, evaluating the actions they are taking to support or undermine the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5 degrees. The Company states, “If a relationship—on balance—does not align with our priorities, we would end ties with the organization altogether,” which they did a few years ago when they exited the Chamber of Commerce. “I wouldn’t say they hit a homerun, but it’s safe to say they made it to second base,” said Tim Dewane, Director of Shalom – the Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation for the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Central Pacific Province, the lead proponent of the resolution. “We have to continue to work to get them home.

Does Sustainable Investing Help Wall Street More Than the Planet?

By Frank Sherman

Two experts recently debated the impact of the ESG investment strategies that has reached mainstream (Does Sustainable Investing Really Help the Environment?, WSJ 11-7-2021). Tariq Fancy, formerly the sustainable-investing chief at BlackRock, argues that the investment sector is doing more good for Wall Street than it is for the planet! He left the financial services industry and has become a critic of relying on the market economy to solve societal problems. “Funds that focus on ESG issues are profitable for Wall Street—but amount to a dangerous placebo that doesn’t cure the planet’s problems.” He calls the ‘win-win’ SRI philosophy of being good for business AND good for people & the planet a fantasy. “The ESG industry today consists of products that have higher fees but little or no impact and narratives that mislead the public and delay the government reforms we need.

Alex Edmans, a professor at London Business School, says that Fancy’s criticism goes too far. While government intervention is essential, he believes engaging with companies on ESG issues has indeed made a difference. Companies that treat their employees well outperform their peers in total shareholder returns. And where some ESG issues can’t be regulated, such as corporate culture, investors can play a role to hold companies to account. He also argues that focus on ESG issues has shifted the Overton window, broadening the range of policy proposals that are acceptable in the political mainstream.

SGI member Duane Roberts, Dana Investment Advisors, agrees with the Professor in thinking Mr. Fancy is too pessimistic. “There are valid reasons for some of his cynicism. Our industry has identified ESG as the new investing fad that can make a lot of money. Thoughtful investors and consultants are trying to distinguish between greenwashing and true ESG investing. But the placebo effect is a real possibility.”

Roberts views sustainable investing vs. public policy as a false choice. “ESG investors and managers see their portfolios, and finance more broadly, as a tool to be applied to the problems society faces. But it should not be considered the only tool.” He agrees with Edmans’ assertion that sustainable investing has influenced public policy. “Business can support necessary policy changes, or work against those changes in their own selfish interest. Investors can nudge companies toward the former.”

I believe we can learn something from Mr. Fancy’s challenge of SGI’s theory of change. Our effort to make the business case to create a win-win can hold faith-based investors back from asking companies to simply do the right thing for their stakeholders. Does there always have to be a return on investment for companies to pay their workers a living wage or to take steps to reverse systemic racism?

SGI Board member Ed Fitzpatrick sums it up this way: “There may be risk of greenwashing; but net-net, investment managers incorporating ESG strategies will ultimately help society.”

What’s all the Fuss about Exxon Mobil and Investors lately?

By Sr. Barbara Jennings, CSJ

On May 26, 2021, a little known investment company called Engine No. 1 challenged and won a proxy battle with one of the world’s largest public oil and gas companies, Exxon Mobil.  Three of Engine No. 1’s four proposed Board Members who have qualified energy industry experience were elected to the board. They will challenge company management to transform their business model for a low carbon economy, which will benefit all stakeholders including workers and shareholders alike. 

Shareholder elected Greg Goff, former CEO of Andeavor and EVP of Marathon Petroleum who thinks that mitigating climate change is part of corporate responsibility; Kaisa Hietala, a former VP of Finnish renewable energy company, Neste Oyi; and Alexander Karsner, a strategist at Alphabet, Inc.  These three candidates beat out three of Exxon Mobil’s current, reelected board members. 

Shareholders proposals co-filed by members of the Seventh Generation Interfaith also received majority votes at the Exxon Mobil AGM. Dana Investments, the Capuchins, and the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Central Province co-filed a proposal asking for a report on climate lobbying (64% vote). The Sisters of St. Agnes co-filed the proposal asking for broader lobbying disclosure (55% vote). The Dubuque Franciscan’s co-filed the separate chair proposal (22% vote). Members of SGI and ICCR also co-filed successful climate proposals at Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Phillips66. 

Members of ICCR have dialogued and filed shareholder resolutions at Exxon Mobil since the early 1990’s. The company always responded with platitudes about their amoeba studies for alternative fuels, but refused to set targets or goals.  What has changed?

Here are my educated guesses:

  1. The Time has come! Finally, extreme weather events and consistent calls from scientists have increased public awareness of climate change, although a decreasing percentage remain climate deniers. Climate Activists like Greta Thunberg are finally getting through to all of us, especially to young people.
  2. It is irrefutable that drilling, and burning petroleum produces is a major cause of climate change as well as of human rights abuses. The latest IPCC report removed any uncertainty: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” 
  3. There is growing popularity of ESG strategies. It has become easier to invest sustainably through many asset managers. Bloomberg projects ESG assets may hit $53 trillion by 2025, a third of global AUM.
  4. The International Energy Agency (IEA) Net Zero by 2050: a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector report published shortly before the Exxon Mobil AGM called on governments and companies to stop investment in new fossil fuel supply projects or coal plants; no sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars after 2035; and net-zero emissions in the global electricity sector by 2040.
  5. Pope Francis continues to remind us to care for our common home. The Vatican released 14 recommended actions in June 2020, including ‘ethical responsible and integral criteria for investment decision making.” The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development urges that Church divestment from fossil fuels and reinvestment in renewables is a moral imperative.
  6. The U. S. Catholic Bishops are reviewing their Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines for the first time in 20 years. Bishop Gregory Parkes, USCCB Treasurer, who worked in the banking industry before entering the priesthood, is seeing the “financial writing on the wall” for fossil fuel companies who will not or cannot diversify. 
  7. A U. S. House subcommittee is “demanding that Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron testify before Congress about the industry’s decades-long effort to wage disinformation campaigns around climate change.” (St. Louis PostDispach, July 3, 2021 and New York Times, June 16, 2021) 

The majority votes at Exxon Mobile indicate a tipping point in pushing fossil fuel companies to transition to low-carbon business models. SGI and ICCR members have persisted and led the way with corporate engagements…and are continuing to see success. 

Do You Know Where Your Asset Manager Is (on climate)?

By Frank Sherman

This article augments an earlier blog by John Mueller of Dana Investment Advisors on Questions to Ask Your Money Manager.

There is a growing recognition within the financial sector of its responsibility, as well as its power, to transition the economy to a low carbon future.  The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), representing $70tn in assets, is committed to achieving the objective of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature increases to 1.5°C. Combined with Net Zero commitments from countries representing approximately 70% of global GDP, it sounds like the world has turned the corner on climate change. However, there is a gap between these long term ambitions and short term actions. The latest round of UN Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) put the world on track for less than a 1% reduction in emissions by 2030 vs. 45% called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (see Responsible Investor, Aug 17, 2021).

As a small asset owner, what can an SGI member do to ensure they are part of the solution rather than contributing to the problem? One easy strategy is to ask your asset manager about their climate stewardship activities, including proxy voting. The UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, part of the GFANZ composed of over 40 institutional investors (including some ICCR members), recently released a new resource designed to help asset owners set expectations for, evaluate, and engage with asset managers on their climate-related proxy voting activities. As well, the resource is useful to asset owners who retain the right to vote their shares or to those asset owners with internally managed portfolios by integrating the principles into their own proxy voting and asset manager selection, appointment, and monitoring processes. These foundational guidelines are centered on four themes: governance, interest alignment, merit-based evaluation, and transparency. They help asset owners construct their own expectations of their asset managers’ proxy voting approaches.

Many asset managers have already made the commitment to align their portfolios with net-zero as part of the Net-Zero Asset Manager Initiative (NZAMI), which is also part of the GFANZ. Among the 128 signatories with $43tn in assets under management have already signed on to this Initiative are some of the biggies like Blackrock, Vanguard, and State Street. If you find your asset managers are part of NZAMI, you have the opportunity as a client to ask about how they are actualizing this goal within their management of their portfolio. If your asset managers have not yet signed on to NZAMI, you should ask them “why not?” I suggest you share this resource with your Investment Committee with a recommendation to review your own proxy voting guidelines and your expectations set with your asset management service providers. At the same time, you may want to challenge your Investment Committee to consider signing on to the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance themselves. As Blackrock’s Larry Fink has made clear, “climate risk is investment risk.”

Questions to Ask Your Money Manager

By John Mueller of Dana Investment Advisors

For over twenty years, Dana has been managing ESG portfolios for clients. During this time, we’ve participated in countless meetings and been asked a wide array of questions. While the old adage, ”There is no such thing as a dumb question” holds true, there are usually questions that are more effective than others to help you find the right solution for your investment portfolio. Below is a list of questions we’ve faced over the years that we think can help investors determine the appropriate partner in their search.

What does ESG mean to you and your firm? We believe the most important, and perhaps the simplest, question is often the most overlooked. During meetings, many words or terms are generally used, and everyone nods in agreement, assuming they understand the definition of that word or term. However, one of the greatest missteps in these meetings is not asking for clarification or a better understanding. Often, there will be many different answers as to a particular definition, and that can be good. Yet, instead of trying to have the investment manager convince you that their method/approach is the best, simply ask yourself if their definition fits what you and/or your group is trying to achieve.

How long is your history with ESG investing? As time goes on, this question perhaps becomes less relevant, yet with the increase in asset flows and countless new product launches for ESG strategies, this question will perhaps give you clarity on the manger’s intentions. While time alone is not a determinant of qualification, it should provide another check box for you to determine if this investment manager is the right solution.

Does your firm rely on external ESG ratings, internal, or a combination of both? ESG research providers have grown exponentially in recent years. While many managers have internal methods, there are a number of researchers that specialize in ESG data. Neither answer is wrong, but there is such rapid growth of data that finding external sources can help form a more complete picture of a company’s policies or changes in policies. Both internal and external methods can have biases; therefore, understanding and partnering with multiple can help in eliminating some of these biases.

How does your firm handle companies with recent controversies or catastrophic events? Missteps and unfortunate events happen, but how the aftermath of such an event was dealt with is generally more telling. While catastrophic events are hard to predict, an investment manager’s response in the following days or weeks is of great importance. If they own shares, do they sell right away on headlines, do they seek to understand more before making a portfolio decision, or do they hold the position? These questions will give you more insights into their process. Controversies are generally more difficult and often have a less clear path to their solution. While investment managers may look at the issue differently from clients, their willingness to listen and discuss, or lack thereof, should be key in your evaluation, as these discussions can be vital in adding to the knowledge base for both the client and investment manager.

How do you approach corporate engagement and proxy voting? This question will help in determining the level of commitment the firm has to this space. While some may not currently be active in engagement, their answers will likely reveal their level of willingness to take on that role at a later date. Recent history has taught us that these actions can be impactful and look to be a greater piece of the puzzle going forward.

While this is only a sampling of questions, there are likely more that will be important to each individual organization. Some of the best questions we’ve been asked over the years don’t pertain to any investment strategy or philosophy. At the end of the day, you are choosing to invest with a person or a team, and asking questions about current events or personal backgrounds can be ways for you to better understand the driving force behind a firm’s ESG investing and other principles and characteristics, which is likely the best way to find a long-lasting partnership that will benefit all involved.

A Legal Framework for Impact

By Frank Sherman

Sustainable investing has not only become mainstream in recent years; it is now recognized as a mark of prudent investment practice. US-SIF reported last year that sustainable investing in the US increased 42% over the previous two years and now represents one in three dollars of the $51 trillion in total assets under professional management. A Morgan Stanley study found that, while the market experienced extreme volatility and recession in 2020, funds focused on “on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, across both stocks and bonds, weathered the year better than non-ESG portfolios.” Yet there are still those who challenge the legal basis for and prudence of incorporating ESG investment strategies.

SGI members who are institutional investors, pension fund trustees, asset managers, or      investment advisors must put their clients’ or beneficiaries’ interests before their own. Despite having been debunked many times, the myth that the fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of a client excludes ESG and socially responsible investing still exits. In a 2019 SGI webinar, Frank Coleman of Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS), referenced a 2005 study by law firm Freshfields, Bruckhaus, Deringer LLP which found investors could incorporate financially material ESG issues as part of their fiduciary duties. The Freshfields report contributed to the launch of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). Frank also described a 2015 Freshfields report, Fiduciary Duty in the 21st Century, which clarified that ESG integration is not just permissible but required for many fiduciaries. Since its publication, financial regulators in Brazil, France, EU, Ontario, South Africa and UK have clarified ESG requirements in legislation.

However, these studies found that a fiduciary’s duty to account for the sustainability impact of their investment activity is limited to the extent that it impacted the financial performance of the assets. In other words, their fiduciary duty requires consideration of how sustainability issues affect the investment decision, but not how their investment decisions affect sustainability issues. Too many investors still approach ESG investing from a defensive posture, considering risk management alone.

Since the publication of the 2015 Freshfields report, the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement have significantly raised awareness within the investment community of global sustainability challenges. The third generation of responsible investors are beginning to measure, account for, and integrate the real-world sustainability impact of their investment activity. A third Freshfields report issued last week, The Legal Framework for Impact, considers the role of the investor as an active agent in shaping the world around us, rather than as a spectator betting on the side lines. This detailed, global, legal analysis demonstrates that investors should feel empowered to set impact goals and measure progress against them. It also highlights what must change to ensure that the rules that govern our financial system foster a truly sustainable economy.

SGI members have always considered the positive and negative impacts of their investments on people and the planet. We have been exposing tools to our members to help them assess these impacts. Investors, like all business actors, are expected to respect human rights as outlined by UN Guiding Principles on Business in Human Rights. Last year, the Investor Alliance for Human Rights published an Investor Toolkit on Human Rights for asset owners and managers to address risks to people posed by their investments. This spring, Ceres joined a number of other investor coalitions to launch the Paris Aligned Investment Initiative providing recommendations on key actions and methodologies for asset owners and managers to achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2050 across their portfolio.

So it is now clear that investors must look beyond the financial returns to understand the ESG impacts of their portfolios have on the real world around them—the world their beneficiaries live in.

Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi Rejoin SGI

SGI is in the midst of welcoming new members. We will features some brief profiles of them so that the broader membership has an opportunity to welcome them. Our first new member is really a member who rejoins us. The Sisters of Sr. Francis of Assisi have been members of SGI through many years. The membership lapsed a few years back, and, now, we are delighted to renew our collaboration!

Jill & Steven Haberman, the community’s Justice and Peace Animators, share the following:

The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi is a community of women religious with a 172-year history of acting on Franciscan Christian values in the world. Trusting in God’s providence, the sisters strive to live the Gospel by nurturing a deep sense of the worth of every person and of all creation. They have a longstanding commitment to social justice action and socially responsible investing. Their relationship with SGI has its roots in Irene Senn’s work with Fr. Mike Crosby. We are delighted to rejoin this collaboration!

As the current Justice and Peace Animators, we are the SGI member contacts for our congregation. We are new to the role, having spent years as middle and high school Catholic educators, including mission teaching on the Texas/Mexico border and in Appalachian Kentucky. Steven also worked for three years against the death penalty in Texas. Social justice is always close to our hearts.

Areas of action we would like to focus include anti-racism, human trafficking, care of creation, and immigration. Thank you for making us feel so welcome; we look forward to working with this dynamic group.

We offer a hearty welcome to the Sisters of St. Francis as we continue our collaboration in building a more just and sustainable world!

Pay and Wealth Disparity: Still our greatest social challenge

By Frank Sherman

Sister Sue Ernster’s (Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration) proposal on racial equity & starting pay at the Walmart AGM earlier this week obtained strong shareholder support for a first-time resolution (12.5% of total shares or 27% of independent shares voted). Congratulations to Sue and the many ICCR co-filers.

I’m reminded of Father Mike Crosby’s 2015 campaign on income disparity. At that time, President Obama called the growing pay & wealth gap in our country “the greatest social challenge of our time“…. and it hasn’t gotten better since then. We didn’t get very far back then after the SEC’s sided with the companies, permitting them to omit our proposal from the proxy based on the “ordinary business” exclusion.

Starting in 2011, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 required companies to include disclosure of the total compensation of the top 5 paid executives in their annual proxy statements. Shareholders are allowed to cast a non-binding advisory vote for or against these pay packages (“say-on-pay”). Very few companies “failed” their say-on-pay vote in recent years. A failure occurs if the company does not obtain majority support from shareholders for the executive compensation proposal.

The tide may be shifting. Twice as many say-on-pay proposals failed this year as in previous years, including some companies that had never had a failure in these resolutions. As You Sow’s Rosanna Landis Weaver does great work digging through the fine print of the “Compensation Discussion and Analysis” section of each company’s proxy statement with an annual report on the 100 Most Overpaid CEOs. A recent NEI article on CEO compensation (A Promising Start To The Challenge Of Excessive CEO Pay) notes that support for pay packages among S&P 500 firms fell to an average of 87%, down 3 percentage points from 2020 and 2019, and down 4 points from 2016 to 2018. It references a report from the Institute for Policy Studies (Pandemic Pay Plunder: Low-Wage Workers Lost Hours, Jobs, and Lives. Their Employers Bent the Rules – to Pump up CEO Paychecks) which found that 51 of the S&P 500 firms with the lowest median worker wage revised their pay rules in 2020, so that median worker pay fell 2%, while CEO pay rose—by 29%.

Investors pushed corporations to tie their pay packages to stock performance (…to better align management pay with investor returns) in the early ’90s. Little did they know that this would be used by companies to successively ratchet up CEO, and as a result, the rest of management’s, comp packages every year to a level that makes U.S. CEOs stand out on the global stage.

The Dodd–Frank Act also required companies to disclose the ratio of CEO compensation to the median compensation of their employees. The rule has only been in effect since 2017, but the SEC allows companies “substantial flexibility” in the calculation of the ratio, making it difficult for investors and society to make meaningful comparisons.

Of course, CEO’s know that their pay relative to the median pay of their workers is out of control. But even if they wanted to change this (and I’m not sure many “want” to do so), they are reluctant to be a first mover on restructuring pay because it would “negatively impact retention and make them less competitive”.

As we complete the next draft of SGI’s strategic plan and think about our engagement focus for the 2022 season (which starts this summer), I believe pay disparity has to be high on our list. I hope you concur.

FSPA begins compensation project as it joins the Fight for $15

By Sister Sue Ernster, Vice President & Treasurer/CFO, FSPA


In appreciation of our valued partners in mission and in support of the actions of ICCR, SGI and Raise the Wage Act of 2021, FSPA has partnered with Wipfli consultants to begin a compensation project that will ultimately raise our organization’s minimum wage to $15 in 2021. 

According to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) Leadership Team, “This isn’t just about economic justice. We recognize our partners in mission serving on staff are gold. We’re advocating for livable wages and we want it to start at home. We’re investing in our partners as they help us carry forward our mission.” The FSPA Merged HR Team note that all wages are evaluated annually, which will continue after the new minimum wage is in place.

FSPA stands with ICCR calling on the federal government to “implement a mandatory minimum wage of at least $15 per hour as a floor, with an eye towards establishing a living wage standard.” ICCR’s 300-plus faith and values-based institutional investors view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. In addition, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Region 9, of which FSPA is a part of, is also advocating for living wages. This is in line with Pope Francis’ Easter message of solidarity with movements that support workers’ dignity through changing economic structures, including consideration of a universal basic wage.  

As our compensation project and advocacy for a living wage intersects with our commitment to unveil our white privilege. Throughout 2021, guided by our Dismantling FSPA Racism Team, we will work to raise awareness of our participation in systemic racism, analyze our congregation’s anti-racist vision and act authentically for racial equity.

FSPA recently took the lead in advocating for racial and economic justice by filing a shareholder resolution (see our exempt solicitation) with Walmart, calling for a higher starting wage — intersecting our compensation project and advocacy with our 2018 commitment to unveil white privilege. Walmart’s low starting wages are not aligned with the its professed values of respect for the individual and promoting healthy communities or its commitment to sustainability. Boosting wages for the lowest paid employees, which are disproportionately people of color, would advance Walmart’s stated commitment to racial justice. Remedying systemic racism provides everyone with tangible benefits. Wages are the most important element of employee compensation, according to Walmart Associates, and the negative effects of lower wages undermine their ability to serve the customer.

Our community is also growing our impact investing. Our 2020 Seeding a Legacy of Healing initiative will usher in a second round of seeding grants including the Apis & Heritage Capital Partners, whose mission  is to attack the racial wealth gap to restore dignity and status to the American Worker. A second investment in the Religious Communities Impact Fund will benefit the economically poor, especially women and children, concentrating on those who are unserved or poorly served through traditional financial sources.

As Pope Francis says in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), “The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies” (#203). The dignity of each person can be recognized through fair wages.