An eyebrow raising statistic

 

Annually, Oxfam, in conjunction with Forbes magazine and its global rich list, publishes a report on how many of the world’s wealthiest are needed to match the wealth of the bottom half of the planet. In recent years, as market values have soared and wealth has concentrated evermore increasingly, the number has shrunk from 80 wealthiest in 2015 to just eight men holding the same wealth as the bottom 3.6 billion people in 2017.

Recently, researchers from the Institute for Policy Studies refined the statistics to reflect the U.S. alone. Their conclusions were eyebrow raising:

It can be hard to grasp just how much money is concentrated in just a few hands in our lopsided economy today. But here’s a start: The richest three people in the United States — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — together have more wealth than the entire bottom half of the country combined.

To put an even finer point on it: That’s three people versus about 160 million people.

To really comprehend just how insane the wealth concentration has become, consider Bezos, the head of Amazon. Worth about $90 billion, he recently was declared the richest man in the world. In October alone, his wealth jumped by $10 billion — or about $4 million per second.

The authors made a particular point that the wealthiest of the group, Jeff Bezos, pays some of his warehouse workers as little as $12.84 an hour.

The report initially appeared in the Los Angeles Times, and more information can be found on the IPS website.

Fr. Mike Crosby receives ICCR Legacy Award

On September 28, Fr. Dan Crosby, O.F.M. Cap., accepted ICCR’s Legacy Award on behalf of his brother and SGI’s founder, Fr. Mike Crosby, O.F.M. Cap., together with Sr. Patricia Daly, O.P., Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment.  The event was held at New York’s historic Riverside Church.  Fr. Dan Crosby accepted his brother’s award with humility and gratitude in the same way Mike approached his work. “The corporate executives whom Mike engaged always respected him because he was never trying to attack them,” he said. “He was just trying always to speak the truth in love.”

ICCR informed Fr. Crosby that he was receiving this year’s Legacy Award shortly after he began hospice treatment last June.   Fr. Mike shared at the time, “I want to finish my remarks with a word to the young people in the audience. You are the ones that inspired me to do this work. It was for you and future generations that inspired me. It is now your turn to carry this work forward to bring good news to the poor and God’s creation. God bless you all.”

SGI joins investor statement about Private Prison Investments

SGI joined with other investors to express concern about JPMorgan Chase’s financing of private correctional REITs (often referred to as private prison companies) which are receiving growing numbers of contracts to detain immigrants amid the current administration’s immigration policy.

We believe the operations of these companies are at odds with JPMorgan Chase’s robust Environmental and Social Risk Management Framework used to assess lending and advisory relationships, and may contradict the commitment in its Human Rights Statement and “How We Do Business Report.”

As America’s incarcerated and detained populations have boomed in recent years, the business of owning and operating prisons and jails has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry. A 2016 report uncovered which Wall Street banks finance the industry’s two leaders, CoreCivic (formerly “Corrections Corporation of America [CCA]”) and GEO Group. In the report, The Banks That Finance Private Prison Companies, In the Public Interest reveals how these banks profit from providing credit, bonds, and loans to private prison companies. Download report.

At the May 2017 shareholders’ annual meeting, after investors raised concerns about human rights violations in private prisons,  JPMorgan Chase CEO Jaime Dimon said: “We will look into the funding of these prisons you’re talking about. I’m not sure we completely agree with you.”

The letter that SGI signed calls for Mr. Dimon to inform investors in writing regarding steps taken to review the relationship with private prison and immigrant detention companies and to arrange a meeting to discuss the matter further.

Read the Letter to JPMorgan Chase

We Are Still In

Frank Sherman, Executive Director of Seventh Generation Interfaith

This month, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the Administration’s intent to repeal the Clean Power Plan. This was President Obama’s signature policy to curb greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions from electrical power plants, the cornerstone of the US plan per the Paris Climate Accord.

Shortly after the EPA announcement, the We Are Still In coalition announced that the US will be represented by a robust delegation at the upcoming 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23), including a US Climate Action Centre and a US Delegation of Climate Leaders as an indication of support for the UN climate talks. The We Are Still In movement is a coalition comprised of approximately 2,500 mayors, governors, state attorneys, business leaders, investors and other prominent climate actors who declared that they will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement. The coalition represents $6.2 trillion of the US economy and more than 130 million Americans, i.e. approximately 40 percent of the US population.

This Clean Power Plan (CPP) was passed by the Obama EPA to meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act. Repeal of the CPP will be fought in the courts. In the meantime, the We Are Still In coalition believes the US can still meet the GHG reduction targets in spite of the repeal of the CPP. GHG emissions in the US are down over 11 percent since 2005, with the power sector down 24 percent. Over the same period, US GDP was up 12 percent, proving that economic growth and GHG emissions can indeed be decoupled.  With natural gas prices depressed, declining renewable energy cost, aging coal plants, increased availability of electric vehicles, and growing public support for climate action (e.g.  the Yale Climate Communication Center reports that over 60 percent of Trump voters support regulating GHG and over 70 percent support renewable energy), this trend will continue.

Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, has declared:

Paris is everyone’s deal. It belongs to cities, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and all of global civil society as much as it belongs to nation-states. So when President Trump attempted to destabilize the process by announcing his intent to withdraw, there was no domino effect of despair. Instead, he unleashed an inspirational counter-movement in support of the Paris Agreement, which is embodied so beautifully in the We Are Still In Campaign.

The New York TImes examines low-carbon investments

Last week, The New York Times published an article, Funds That Can Put Your Investments on a Low-Carbon Diet, that examines low-carbon investments. Like SGI in our resource page, the article highlights Fossil Free Funds, a resource from As You Sow. The article highlights some of the investment funds that provide low-carbon alternatives. It also includes a general assessment from an industry leader, Jon F. Hale of Morningstar, on the risks and performance of these funds.

As the NYT is behind a paywall after ten monthly free articles, here is a PDF version of the article without the photos or links: Funds That Can Put Your Investments on a Low-Carbon Diet – The New York Times.

Ring the bells that can be rung

The Board of the ​Seventh Generation ​Interfaith CRI gathered at my mother house, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, in La Crosse, Wisconsin last month to reflect on both the challenges and opportunities we face and to map a path forward. The day was facilitated by Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA, ​with presentations ​by Frank Sherman, Executive Director of Seventh Generation Interfaith, and Seventh Generation Interfatih Board members Peg Groth ​and ​Mark Peters.

Sister Marlene’s opening reflection on the loss of our founder, Fr. Mike Crosby, O.F.M. Cap. was both moving and a spur to “ring the bells that can still be rung,” as Leonard Cohen urged us in his song Anthem. We spent time in breakout groups discussing the external and internal ​trends impacting our mission and vision. We agreed on a SWOT analysis (strengths, weakness, opportunity and threats), a vision of what success would look like, measurable goals and objectives to get us there, and an understanding of who would be responsible for achieving them. After this discussion, we discerned what would be a possible organizational model and funding strategy to facilitate it.

I found the workshop to be both challenging and energizing. Fr. Mike Crosby left us a 45-year legacy of shareholder engagement. Despite the headwinds of a challenging political environment and the changing demographics of our members, the group came away feeling that this ministry has been a catalyst for change and compelled to continue in Mike’s footsteps to bring good news to the poor and God’s creation. I look forward to working in coalition with other SGI members to ring the bells that can be rung.

Sr. Sue Ernster, F.S.P.A