Shareholders work for racial justice

Four SGI members participated in ICCR‘s Spring Conference: Sr. Ruth Battaglia, C.S.A., Chris Cox, Frank Sherman, and Friar Robert Wotypka, O.F.M., Cap. We will report back what we heard and learned in a variety of ways in the coming weeks.

Today’s tweet from Pope Francis reminds us that preventing evil is not enough; we must take positive action together. Since its inception, SGI has endeavored to make the voices and concerns of those who suffer injustice the center of our reflection and action. I see it reflected as well in the work of the new Racial Justice Investing group within ICCR.

National events in 2017 intensified focus on racial, ethnic, and gender equality. The #MeToo movement, protests concerning the Confederate Flag and Confederate statues, the Women’s March, and the Black Lives Matter movement all contributed to this shift in focus. While personal conversion is vital to change, it is not enough. Addressing systemic injustice requires changes in structures at the level of policy, economics, and worldviews.

A session at the recent ICCR conference included a session from the newly formed Racial Justice Investing group. Pat Tomaino of Zevin Asset Management chaired the session. We also heard from Lisa Hayles of Boston Common Asset Management, Susan Baker of Trillium Asset Management, and Mari Schwartzer of NorthStar Asset Management. Hayles spoke of The 30% Coalition (that corporate boardrooms reflect the gender, racial and ethnic diversity of the United States workforce). Susan Baker discussed workforce diversity and the case for pressing companies to make the composition of the workforce transparent. Schwartzer voiced concerns about prison labor (NPR reported on some of the issues). Finally,  Tomaino addressed diversity and inclusion, especially within the tech workforce.

Pat Tomaino

The Racial Justice Investing group has monthly/semi-monthly calls and has a webpage within ICCR’s member area where SGI members can sign up to participate and to receive regular updates. Previously, the group drafted a Mission Statement:

Racial Justice Investing is a group of socially responsible investors and others in the business community who are taking action for racial justice within our own organizations, as well as in our engagements with portfolio companies.

This important work will contribute to our corporate engagements. We heard about success from Johns Hopkins in hiring of ex-offenders. We talked about resolutions asking tech companies to tie portion of executive compensation to diversity and inclusion goals among other sustainability goals. We also heard about work from the American Friends Service Committee investigating corporate investments in the prison industry. Much remains to be done, but it is exciting to see our partners deeply engaging this issue.

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

SGI lobbies Sen. Robert Portman to support a business supply transparency bill

Seventh Generation Interfaith and Region VI (Cleveland, Ohio) have co-signed a letter to Sen. Robert Portman (Ohio), requesting his support of a business supply transparency bill for this Congress.  Portman is a key member of the Senate Finance Committee, likely starting point of such a bill.  The effort is an attempt to resurrect the The Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015 (H.R. 3226/S.1968); last session’s version garnered great support from numerous socially responsible investors.