SGI hosts a Lobbying Disclosure and Lobbying Alignment Webinar

Companies invest billions of dollars in political influence through lobbying, campaign contributions, and other means. Corporations are societally chartered institutions of enormous importance and value, creating jobs, producing goods and services that consumers rely upon, impact the environment we live in and pay salaries to worker who hope to lead fulfilling lives. At the same time, corporations spend vastly greater sums on lobbying than the funds available to pro-consumer, pro-environment, and pro-worker organizations. Hence, we consider this an important, basic area of corporate governance, and adequate disclosure of corporate lobbying remains a pressing shareholder proposal topic.

SGI members filed or co-filed 12 proposals related to lobbying for the 2023 proxy season. Over the last few years, resolutions have moved from beyond basic disclosure to reporting on alignment and misalignment between a company’s stated position and the lobbying efforts that a company funds indirectly via trade associations,  501(c)(4) social welfare nonprofits, and 527 political organizations, often referred to as “dark money.” Those reports are important as the reveal the risks of lobbying misalignment.

To dig deeper into these themes, we hosted Tim Smith, senior policy advisor at ICCR, and John Keenan, Corporate Governance Analyst for Capital Strategies for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), for a webinar on Lobbying Disclosure and Lobbying Alignment.

The webinar also points investors to valuable resources concerning lobbying:

We are grateful for Tim Smith and John Keenan joining us. We want to thank all of our members and guests for attending our webinar.

Slides are available here. The video is available here.

Join SGI for a Webinar on Lobbing Disclosure and Alignment

Join us for our first webinar of 2023 on Wednesday, February 15th, at 10:00 a.m. Central. We will address efforts for increased lobbying disclosure. Similar to previous years, SGI members filed or co-filed a dozen resolutions that pertain to lobbying disclosure and lobbying alignment. Joining us will be Tim Smith, newly returning to the ICCR staff, and John Keenan, of AFSCME. Register for the webinar here

Why is this important? Visit any company’s website. Take a look at the company’s existing disclosures and assess:

  • Do they currently provide you with a clear idea of how and where the company is lobbying, to what end and with what efficacy, and how those activities are aligned with your interests?
  • Could you cite a number that represents how much the company has spent on influencing public policy, directly or indirectly, and with what partners, and on what issues?
  • Beyond its activities in the US, do you have a clear understanding of how the company attempts to impact policies in non-US jurisdictions?

Corporations are societally chartered institutions of enormous importance and value, creating jobs, producing goods and services that consumers rely upon, impact the environment we live in and pay salaries to worker who hope to lead fulfilling lives. At the same time, corporations spend vastly greater sums on lobbying than the funds available to pro-consumer, pro-environment, and pro-worker organizations. Hence, we consider this an important, basic area of corporate governance, and, in this webinar, we are going to dig into these engagements and resolutions.

Again, please, join us!

Amplifying the Voices of Indigenous Peoples

A number of SGI members have long histories of working amid indigenous peoples. In this webinar, we offer a modest goal: we explore how we might stand with indigenous peoples and amplify their concerns in our engagements with portfolio companies. We were joined by Kate Finn (Executive Director, First Peoples Worldwide), Keith Doxtator (Trust Enrollments Director of the Oneida Nation), and Steven Heim (Managing Director for Boston Common Asset Management).

Our very name, Seventh Generation Interfaith, is an homage to the Great Law of the Iroquois. The planet faces an existential crisis, and Indigenous people have been talking about it, planning for it, fighting against it, and organizing around it since the beginnings of colonial settlement around the world. Most non-Indigenous people don’t have this long-term perspective—nor the many-centuries-old knowledge of natural cycles, and what to do to manage these and modify human practices when needed to get back into balance with the natural world.

We see today’s webinar as a step in a conversation or connection to a much bigger story. The best way to acknowledge the place where we live and work is to know and appreciate it. We encourage our SGI members to trace and celebrate their own connections to land and water and get to know the local indigenous history of sustainable, resilient human presence in this and other places. We should know the nearby native nations and encourage work toward reconciliation where land has been taken and culture erased.

If you are not a member of the Investors & Indigenous Peoples Working Group and would like to learn more about joining IIPWG, please email [email protected]. The IIPWG invites investors to join its monthly calls. As well, the Group serves as a clearinghouse for education, news, and joint action to bridge and bring together Native and Non-Native communities on issues related to sustainable and responsible investing.

We’ll also remind you that tomorrow (November 17th) the IIPWG hosts a webinar on Indigenous Peoples, Biodiversity and Sustainable Finance. You can register for the webinar here.

We want to thank all of our members and guests for attending our webinar.

Slides are available here. The video is available here.

Making the Investment Policy Statement Your Own

Building on our webinar about the revised USCCB Socially Responsible Investing Guidelines, SGI’s subsequent member webinar invites us to evaluate our investment practices and policies as expressed in an Investment Policy Statement (IPS). For some this may seem a dry document about asset allocation and expected returns. In fact, the Investment Policy Statement sets forth a set of goals for your institution. It can and should speak to what your institution stands for.

We were joined by:

We want to thank all of our members and guests for attending our webinar. We would greatly appreciate if you would take a quick minute to fill out our questionnaire, here, regarding your experience.

Slides are available here.

Revised: The USCCB SRI Guidelines

For the first time since 2003, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops revised and approved new Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines at their gathering in November of 2021. SGI’s first webinar of 2022 examined what is new in the guidelines, how an investor might implement them, and how the guidelines may call us to act in new ways. We were so grateful to be joined by Duane Roberts of Dana Investment Advisors and Katie McCloskey of Mercy Investment Services.

The USCCB staff under the leadership of a Bishops’ Working Group, chaired by the USCCB Treasurer, developed a draft of the guidelines over two years. Both of our speakers were consulted as external subject matter experts.

This revision to the USCCB Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines provides an opportunity for Catholic investors to review and update their investment policy, and perhaps their investment program as a whole. The bishops are explicit about seeing the guidelines as a “holistic framework that sees economic development intrinsically linked to integral human development and good stewardship of God’s creation.”

Like all Church documents, these guidelines need some contextualization. Officially, their scope is quite narrow: the document guides the USCCB’s investments and other activities related to corporate responsibility. Apart from that narrow scope, there is a broader mission: that they serve as an inspiration, helping to inform the investment decisions of religious communities, dioceses and archdioceses, colleges and universities, healthcare organizations, and Catholic foundations. One might say that it is a rather practical expression of a Catholic vision for the economy.

As people of faith stewarding the assets of Catholic institutions, many SGI members have a unique opportunity to develop and apply the USCCB SRI Guidelines for asset stewardship in the present, while ushering in a different form of stewardship altogether in the coming decades. Having begun in 1973, SGI sees this as a journey. We thank you who are our members for being on the journey with us, and we invite and welcome others who are interested to be on this journey with us.

We also offer thanks to Duane and Katie for being such great companions on this journey. Again, we are very grateful for the presence of Duane and Katie in this webinar, for their commitment to this work, and their generosity in sharing their wisdom and experience with us. As always, we welcome your feedback via a confidential evaluation found here. Slides are available here.

Revised: The USCCB SRI Guidelines

For the first time since 2003, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops revised and approved new Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines at their gathering in November of 2021. 

Please, join SGI for our first educational webinar of 2022 to learn about what is new in the guidelines, how an investor might implement them, and how the guidelines may call us to act in new ways. We’ll gather at 10 a.m. (Central) on Tuesday, February 15th, and we’ll be joined by Duane Roberts of Dana Investment Advisors and Katie McCloskey of Mercy Investment Services.

Join the webinar on Zoom via this link

If the Zoom meeting is full, please, join the webinar via our YouTube channel which will also live stream the webinar. We will attend to questions from the both Zoom and the YouTube comment box.

Pay and Wealth Disparity Webinar

Good corporate governance, the “G” in ESG, allows for companies to better lean into the challenges and opportunities. Well-governed companies drive change rather than being subjected to it.

Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, famously described executive compensation as the acid test of corporate governance. For my part, I think the Oracle of Omaha may only be half right. Yes, executive compensation is critical, but it is only half of the picture. The other half of the picture is looking at the wages of the lowest paid, most vulnerable within a company or within its supply chain. It’s a matter of looking not only from the top down, but also the bottom up.

On November 19th, we continued efforts to educate ourselves on issues related to pay and wealth disparity and about some actions we can take to address them. We are grateful that Brandon Rees of the AFL-CIO and Rosanna Landis Weaver of As You Sow joined us to enrich our conversation.

A couple of weeks ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk made headlines as the first person in history with a net worth exceeding $300 billion. The other part of that story is that, by comparison, the median U.S. worker would need more than 4 million years to make that much.

SGI has a long history in this space. From our founding in 1973, Fr. Mike Crosby has advocated for a living wage. SGI consistently advocates for increasing the federal minimum wage.

In 2013, President Obama said, “Rising income inequality is the defining challenge of our time.” Pope Francis, in the same year, noted, “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” As a consequence, one of Fr. Mike’s final efforts was a campaign for pay equity in 2014 by filing shareholder resolutions with 12 retailers. SEC allowed companies to omit the resolution based on “micro management.” SGI members continues to challenge retailers and restaurants to pay living wages, for their own workers and for those in their supply chain.

In hopes of building an economy that works for the many, not one that concentrates more and more wealth in the hands of a privileged few, we keep coming back to this issue to see if there are new ways that we can address income and wealth disparity. The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration proposal on racial equity & starting pay at the Walmart AGM obtained strong shareholder support for a first-time resolution. SGI members have joined this year’s ICCR campaign to ask restaurants to raise their sub-minimum wage for tipped workers.

Increasingly, economists have come to see that wealth and income disparity harm the economy. Rising concern for pay and wealth disparity in proxy voting and changes at the SEC lead us to think the tide may be shifting, and so we come to today’s conversation to get better informed and to renew our commitment to act.

Again, we are very grateful for the presence of Brandon and Rosanna in this webinar, for their commitment to this work, and their generosity in sharing their wisdom and experience with us. As always, we welcome your feedback via a confidential evaluation found here. Slides are available here.

Pay and Wealth Disparity Resources:

Webinar: Water Stewardship

When describing the geography of SGI, one can use bodies of water as a descriptor: The Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. We have a new member from the other side of Lake Michigan, the Grand Rapids Dominicans as well as another new member near the Lake’s southern shore, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. We are based on the western shore of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, and a returning member here is more commonly known as the Lake Franciscans and our board president is from Riverwater Partners. Most other members can be characterized by their proximity to the Mississippi: The Franciscans Sisters of Little Falls near the Mississippi’s origin, our members from the Twin Cities, the FSPA’s in La Crosse, the Dubuque Franciscans and the BVMs, our St. Louis members, down to the Jesuits in New Orleans.

One might say that water is in our DNA as an organization.

On August 19th, we continued efforts to educate ourselves on issues related to water. In a webinar on Water Stewardship, we learned about some tools that we can use and actions we can take in these efforts. We are grateful that Robin Miller of Ceres and Lydia Miller Dana Investment Advisors joined us to enrich our conversation.

“The ultimate stranded asset related to water is people.”

Climate change, loss of biodiversity, and access to water have become existential threats, and, while politicians have been forced to collaborate on a global scale, the financial sector and businesses must also contribute if we are to have a chance of success. Until recently, there was not enough publicly available information for investors to assess the real-world impacts of their investments on water availability, making it difficult to accurately assess water-related risks. New tools present opportunities for investors to become involved through active ownership and investing in companies that provide water solutions. 

Water stewardship, in corporate life, means understanding the risks faced from water scarcity and pollution, and taking action to help ensure sustainable water management. In its plainest sense, water is a shared, public resource.

Again, we are very grateful for the presence of Robin and Lydia in this webinar, for their commitment to this work, and their generosity in sharing their wisdom and experience with us. As always, we welcome your feedback via a confidential evaluation found here. Slides are available here.

Water Stewardship Resources:

Webinar: Proxy Voting

On April 16th, SGI’s quarterly member webinar examined how the engagement season will be shaped by the pandemic and racial justice issues. We are grateful that Michael Passoff of Proxy Impact and Meredith Miller of the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust joined us to enrich our conversation. We had some great interaction in the question and answer period, and, if a member missed it, please, email a staff member for a link to the recording.

Every year, billions of shares are voted at more than 3,000 shareholder meetings of public companies. “Proxy plumbing” is an informal name for the system by which proxy materials land in shareholders’ mailboxes each year. The name is apt. Today’s proxy plumbing is confusing, inefficient and expensive, much like some interconnected jumble of water pipes, joints and faucets. Michael and Meredith helped give us a clearer understanding of how shareholders can better navigate the maze.

Again, we are very grateful for the presence of Michael and Meredith in this webinar, for their commitment to this work, and their generosity in sharing their wisdom and experience with us. As always, we welcome your feedback via a confidential evaluation found here. Slides are available here.

Essential Workers: COVID-19 and Racial Equity

On February 19th, SGI’s quarterly member webinar examined how the engagement season will be shaped by the pandemic and racial justice issues. We are grateful that Corey Klemmer of Domini Impact Investments and Hanna Lucal of Open MIC joined us to enrich our conversation. We had some great interaction in the question and answer period, and we added some resources that were shared in the webinar’s chat feature to a final slide in the slide deck.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans were shocked at the sight of empty shelves in stores as global supply chains sputtered to keep up with the demand for a variety of products. The fragility of these supply chains has suddenly become evident to a lot of Americans who expect them to always operate seamlessly. Global supply chains connect people worldwide, from garment workers in Bangladesh to consumers in the United States. They are built to be ruthlessly efficient, manufacturing and delivering goods exactly when and where they are needed. The ability to move quickly and seamlessly across the globe also helps companies find cheaper labor or other opportunities to make products more cheaply. While this system may be good for corporate owners and supply chain managers, it takes a toll on workers. In the face of COVID-19, poultry workers literally put their life on the line every time they punch in to work. The opportunity of 2021 is to place worker dignity at the center of supply chain transformation plans.

The Black Lives Matter movement has also created an unprecedented urgency for a more genuinely diverse and inclusive workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted devastating effects on the U.S. economy, with job losses, especially concentrated among women, minorities, and low-wage workers. It illustrates the systemic racism that lives in our financial institutions. Corporations are making statements in support of Black Lives Matter, but statements are easy. Ensuring that People of Color are hired, paid, promoted, and retained equitably is less so. We cannot allow the corporate response to be merely words. Together, we can compel action.

Again, we are very grateful for the presence of Corey and Hannah in this webinar, for their commitment to this work, and their generosity in sharing their wisdom and experience with us. As always, we welcome your feedback via a confidential evaluation found here. Slides are available here.