Submitted by Make TIAA-CREF Ethical Coalition
- February 17, 2009 - Educational pension giant TIAA-CREF regularly touts its achievements in providing "financial services for the greater good." Yet it continues to fail on the most important way it can contribute to corporate social responsibility: changing the abusive behavior of industry leaders and of corporate contributors to the genocide in Sudan.
The Make TIAA-CREF Ethical Coalition* lobbied until TIAA-CREF agreed to engage its portfolio companies on issues of social responsibility. They agreed to talk to two of the Coalition's five target companies, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart. However, years of talking has had little if any effect on their policies. Due to the actions of Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, and Nike, people continue to suffer daily: workers in sweatshops, union leaders facing intimidation or death in Columbia, and people drinking polluted water. Waiting for years for possible change to come from "quiet diplomacy" is no longer an option.
Changes in Wal-Mart's environmental practices were prompted by the aggressive work of activist groups, asserted a January 24, 2009 article in the New York Times. Likewise, the very limited changes made by Coca-Cola were likely the result of aggressive actions taken by our Coalition group member, Campaign to Stop Killer Coke.
In 2007, resolutions were passed by the 600,000 member New York State United Teachers and 1.4 million member American Federation of Teachers critical of TIAA-CREF's continued investment in Nike, Coca-Cola, and Wal-Mart. They asked TIAA-CREF to hold these and other companies accountable on labor issues.
TIAA-CREF says it has no plans to move beyond dialogue with these companies. At the same time it asserts:
* Make TIAA-CREF Ethical Coalition includes: Corporate Accountability International (formerly Infact), World Bank Bonds Boycott, Press for Change, Social Choice for Social Change, Canadian Committee To Combat Crimes Against Humanity (CCCCH) , Citizens Coalition (Frente Civico), Educating for Justice, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Campaign to Stop Killer Coke/Corporate Campaign, Inc., Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and Sprawl-Busters.
Investors Against Genocide is asking TIAA-CREF to make a commitment to genocide-free investing. That would require TIAA-CREF to divest from those companies supporting the regime in Sudan. TIAA-CREF has dialogued with the worst company, PetroChina, for years with no results to show for it. Again, why doesn't TIAA-CREF follow the escalation pattern we suggest for companies it engages? Where talking has worked, great. Where it has not, escalate financially."¨"¨However, not only has TIAA-CREF refused to divest, they've refused to put a freeze on new purchases. TIAA-CREF has actually upped its investment in PetroChina and other problem companies, at the same time that it acknowledges those companies' problems. What kind of strategy is that?
TIAA-CREF shareholders will have a chance to vote on the issue when shareholder proposals for genocide-free investing are on the ballot in June for the shareholder meeting in July. Shareholder votes on the issue can establish healthier investment rules for TIAA-CREF. "¨"¨Read more at www.InvestorsAgainstGenocide.org.
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