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The Latest Corporate Social Responsibility News - Investor Advocates Upping Effectiveness by Creating Issue-Specific Networks

Submitted by: CSRwire Weekly News Alert

Categories: Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility

Posted: Aug 19, 2008 – 11:59 PM EST

 

Networks serve as pivot points for leveraging corporate change

Aug. 19 /CSRwire/ - Leverage: the term is so over-used in business, it's lost the umph of its original metaphor - think of a see–saw where a little kid can lift a big adult by placing the fulcrum, or pivot point, in just the right spot and exerting some pressure. This image applies aptly to investor advocacy, where shareholders leverage corporate change by acting as a pivot point, connected to companies on one end and activists on the other end. And investor advocates are upping their effectiveness by creating issue-specific networks such as those catalogued in a new category added to our CSR Directory by its manager, Michael Kane.

Take, for example, the investor advocacy network launched just this week to promote an end to forced child labor in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan. The move comes in response to media accounts and reports that the world’s third largest cotton exporter relies heavily on harvesting by kids as young as 10. A group of socially responsible investors (SRIs) and activist NGOs banded together to push the Uzbek government to enforce International Labor Organization child labor conventions – a move supported by four retail trade organizations. "It is our experience that collaborative efforts of investors, non-governmental organizations, trade unions, companies and industry associations can make a difference," said David Schilling of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

ICCR practically invented shareholder advocacy, and actively collaborates with a number of issue-based investor advocacy networks - most notably Ceres, the mother of environmental investor networks, on climate risk. When the Investor Environmental Health Network launched a few years ago (with several ICCR members), IEHN readily acknowledged borrowing from the Ceres playbook on climate risk to address toxic products and manufacturing processes. Now, the Open MIC (Media and Information Companies) Initiative is applying Ceres and IEHN tactics to address digital-age issues such as network neutrality and safeguarding computer users' privacy and free speech.

The investor advocacy network model is also expanding to encompass everyday investors with initiatives such as FundVotes, ProxyDemocracy, and OpenSRI. Former Corporate Library researcher Jackie Cook founded FundVotes to sift the mountain of SEC data and list how mutual funds vote on shareholder resolutions. Armed with this info, investors can confront funds for rubber-stamping management. ProxyDemocracy, spearheaded by Harvard PhD candidate Andy Eggers, takes this a step further by compiling the progressive proxy voting policies of CalPERS, Calvert, Domini, and others to serve as a template for investors to vote their own proxies. Corporate governance expert Jim McRitchie praised the idea: "It marks the beginning of a new era of potential activism by retail shareowners who can now begin to vote their proxies by brand reputation." OpenSRI democratizes corporate social and environmental performance ratings, which SRI firms typically guard as proprietary info, by inviting input from all stakeholders.

Even federal offices, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, have a role to play. EPA recently networked with investors to dialogue on improving access to environmental data. The conclusion: tag info by parent company, a move EPA is working to implement - or enforce on databases such as the Toxics Release Inventory that already requires it.

This article was written by CSRwire contributor Bill Baue. Disclosure: Bill Baue has worked with Ceres, IEHN, and Jackie Cook.

Book Promotion

This week's book promotion is 'The Common Good Corporation' a comprehensive guide to creating a healthy values-driven workplace community at any organization co-authored by Bob and Barbara Fishman. Bob highlights his own personal experiences successfully managing the national $166 million dollar organization Resources for Human Development (RHD). During its 38-year history, it has grown an average of 27 percent yearly. The book is full of innovative, values-led guidelines and principles for developing workplace communities, supporting local decision making, and instituting unique monetary policies.


CSRwire's Multimedia Picks of the Week

  • Ten-year-old Nikos Spiridakis made this powerful one-minute global warming video after sitting at the gas pump. His film is currently one of the sample videos for the 1Sky and Brighter Planet national video contest: Climate Matters--Inspire Your Next President!

  • In this graphic video, Greenpeace activists attempt to temporarily stop the flow of toxic waste water into a 2km wide tailings lake used by Syncrude's Tar Sands operation in Northern Alberta. Their banner reads: "World's Dirtiest Oil: Stop the Tar Sands"

  • Corporate Watchdog Radio did a fascinating interview with Peter Zeihan, director of analysis for Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor,) a geopolitical intelligence firm, on the Russia/Georgia conflict and what it means to the world.

  • It's hard to get enough of Van Jones. TPM caught up with the Green Collar Jobs Founder at the Netroots Nation convention in Austin.

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