ICCR Celebrates the Launch of the Investor Alliance for Human Rights
The Investor Alliance for Human Rights is an initiative led by ICCR designed to build the investor movement in addressing human rights through investments. The Alliance membership will include all investors, including socially responsible investors, pension funds, and mainstream investors, and it will work collaboratively with NGO partners and community stakeholders, with the shared goal to ensure corporations act on their responsibility to respect human rights in their global operations and supply chains. On May 24, 2018, ICCR formally launched the Investor Alliance at Bloomberg, LP in New York City. We were pleased to see CRI members Maureen, Valerie, Pat Daly, Melissa, and Linda at the event.
The keynote speaker, John Ruggie, was responsible for developing the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), which includes the “Protect, Respect, Remedy” framework. Bennett Freeman, formerly of Calvert Investments, spoke about the legacy of ICCR’s work on human rights and the important role for investors to weigh in on public policy. Paloma Munoz Quick, Program Director for the Investor Alliance introduced the investor engagement strategy and facilitated two panels. The first panel included three investors making the case for addressing human rights through investment decision-making and shareholder engagement, with Mary Beth Gallagher representing Tri-CRI and the faith-based investor voice on the panel. The second panel focused on impact through collective action, with panelists representing an impacted community group, a sustainability executive at a major corporation, and an NGO partner.
The Investor Alliance is a collective engagement platform which will create an enabling environment for business conduct that respects human rights through engagement and education. The Alliance will develop 2 to 3 strategic campaigns that are issue and sector specific. The first campaign, to be launched mid-2018, will address corporate human rights due diligence practices. Investors will also be encouraged to engage in public policy advocacy through “urgent actions”, such as the recent investor letter on reporting under the Conflict Minerals Rule 1502. Visit https://investorsforhumanrights.org/ to learn more about these actions.
The meeting was engaging and exciting, and we look forward to continuing to actively support and participate in this work. All members of the CRI are encouraged to join the Investor Alliance if you have not yet. See below for a summary of the speeches and panel discussions.
Keynote Speech by John Ruggie – Former UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights
John Ruggie first gave an overview of the development of the UNGPs, a process which was informed by over 50 stakeholder consultations, including with companies and impacted community groups. Engagement with communities whose rights were infringed upon by irresponsible corporate actors led to the inclusion of the “remedy” pillar of the framework. He shared that the Principles were widely endorsed by governments because there was such clear buy-in from both business and civil society.
John’s speech also addressed the challenge the Investor Alliance is faced with: getting mainstream investors to integrate human rights criteria into investment decision making. There has been strong growth in ESG investing in the past 20 years, with a spike after the financial crisis and even after Trump was elected, when uncertainty and lack of trust were at their peak. ESG funds are also increasingly recognized as strong financial performers, as sustainable companies are generally better managed and may be more resilient during downturns. He noted that millenial women will be leaders in making ESG investing more mainstream.
Finally, John spoke to the importance of investor engagement on human rights due diligence as the way for investors to have the greatest impact on corporate human rights performance. When companies assess risks in making business decisions, they must start with risks to people in order to ensure respect for human rights of impacted stakeholders. Once risks are evaluated for severity and prioritized, companies can effectively prevent, mitigate, and remedy any identified human rights violations.
Panel I: Investing in Human Rights
Anna Pot – Manager, Responsible Investment, APG Asset Management
APG is a pension fund based in the Netherlands. Anna’s role includes helping portfolio managers understand human rights language in such a way that they can make investment decisions that account for human rights criteria under APG’s methodology for conscious investing. Her firm sees a responsibility to engage laggards on human rights performance. Anna strongly believes that investors need better data on corporate human rights performance to make informed decision making and this led her to become involved with the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark.
Adam Kanzer – Managing Director of Corporate Engagement, Domini Impact Investments
Adam (who spoke at our CRI meeting in March 2017) spoke from the perspective of an SRI firm. Adam also identified that human rights language needs to be better understood, as the public may separate labor rights from human rights or fail to see that human rights abuses occur domestically as well as internationally. He drew specific attention to the human rights issues impacting Facebook around privacy. Issues related to FPIC (free, prior, and informed consent), privacy, and pay equity are all related to human rights. Adam raised that investors have a responsibility to uphold the UNGPs and that we must use our access and means to engage companies on human rights.
Mary Beth Gallagher – Executive Director, Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment
Mary Beth raised that faith-based investors have a moral imperative to engage in socially responsible investing through investment decision-making and engagement to carry out the mission of the portfolio. Mary Beth shared how Tri-CRI is engaging companies in the automotive sector on human rights due diligence through the Shifting Gears initiative and also talked about the importance of meaningful consultation with community stakeholders when engaging companies, using the Tyson engagement on water stewardship as an example.
Panel II: Impact Through Collective Action
Dave Archambault II – Former Chairman, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Senior Fellow, the First Peoples Investment Engagement Project
Dave explained how in his culture, all living things are viewed as connected, as relatives. His people have respect for water, air, earth, animals, and plants, and see a need to speak up when nature is threatened. In the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), his community mapped the sacred places that would potentially be impacted by the pipeline, but companies did not consult with them until permits had already been issued to begin construction. He identified that the U.S. government and corporations both have flawed engagement processes that identify risks to communities after it is too late.
Michael Connor – Founder and Executive Director, Open MIC
Open Mic is an NGO that supports investor engagements to ensure corporate accountability in the media and tech sectors. They engage with Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and other large companies with major leverage on issues such as access to internet, net neutrality, privacy, and freedom of expression, and the use of facial recognition technology.
Eliza Huger Eubank – Director, Environmental and Social Risk Management, Citi
Eliza is responsible for implementing the Equator Principles and the social and environmental risk management policy at Citi when projects are financed. Citi has become increasingly deliberate in using human rights language in their policies and disclosure as human rights was flagged high on their materiality matrix. Citi is a signatory to the Equator Principles but also one of the funders of DAPL, and this case led them to engage with impacted communities and investors. This identified a gap in the Equator Principles, which are in the process of being revised, and Citi also amended their project finance policy.
Tri-CRI is excited to participate in the new Investor Alliance for Human Rights through collaborative shareholder engagement opportunities and urgent actions on human rights and Mary Beth is on the Steering Committee. Working together with a more diverse network of investors and partners will enrich our engagements and increase the potential for meaningful impact. Tri-CRI has been a leading voice in the responsible investment movement for decades and we were chosen to represent faith-based investors at the launch of the Alliance, which presented a great forum to introduce our Shifting Gears campaign to the public. Recognizing that human rights is a top priority issue for Tri-CRI members, our participation in the Alliance will provide more opportunities to engage moving forward.