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May 28, 2013

World CSR Day makes global impact

Posted March 12, 2013
CSR leaders from all around the world gathered in Mumbai, India last month for World CSR Day to discuss impact investing. One of the main questions asked was: “What is the role of corporations in sustainable value creation for all stakeholders, to foster social, economic and environmental development as well as profits?” Such a widely attended event, reinforcing CSR trends and the work of UCF, is a welcome reminder to companies internationally to continue setting in place CSR policies and revising them on a regular basis. To read the full story click here.

Pure Bliss!

Corporate engagement is one of the cornerstones of the United Church Funds’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program. Recently, after several years of dialogue with a group of investors including the UCF, The Hershey Company announced that it will begin making its Hershey’s Bliss chocolate products with 100 percent cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, which strive to meet comprehensive sustainability standards to protect the environment, employees, and communities. Learn more here.

The commitment is a significant first step to improving the chocolate manufacturer’s supply chain accountability. Hershey will use an independent, third-party certification system to ensure its Bliss cocoa is grown sustainably – and without the use of forced and child labor, the primary concern for investor-members of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) who have been dialoguing with the company.

In West Africa, where 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is grown, tens of thousands of children are forced to work on cocoa plantations – particularly in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, the world’s top two cocoa exporting nations. While the vast majority of these children are working on small family farms, a portion of these children may be trafficked in from extremely poor countries, such as Mali and Burkina Faso.

Since 2007, the CSR office of UCF has encouraged Hershey to address its cocoa bean sourcing, encouraging equitable pay for farmers and fair labor standards for workers as a way to combat the need for child labor in the cocoa farms. In 2011, concerned investors engaged with Hershey to discuss the company’s first corporate responsibility report and held other meetings with the company to discuss supply chain issues.

Corporate engagement is an essential tool for socially responsible investors. UCFs’ Corporate Social Responsibility office, in concert with other ICCR investors, has been calling for incremental improvements, like the commitment Hershey has made, because the UCF believes these are steps toward holistic corporate sustainability. UCFs’ CSR office operates from the premise that sustainable corporations are positioned for the long term.

Improvement with Cocoa Sourcing

Corporate engagement is one of the cornerstones of United Church Funds’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program. Recently, after several years of dialogue with a group of investors including UCF, The Hershey Company announced that it will begin making its Hershey’s Bliss chocolate products with 100 percent cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, which strive to meet comprehensive sustainability standards to protect the environment, employees, and communities. The commitment is a significant first step to improving the chocolate manufacturer’s supply chain accountability. Hershey will use an independent, third-party certification system to ensure its Bliss cocoa is grown sustainably – and without the use of forced and child labor, the primary concern for investor-members of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) who have been dialoguing with the company. In West Africa, where 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is grown, tens of thousands of children are forced to work on cocoa plantations – particularly in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, the world’s top two cocoa exporting nations. While the vast majority of these children are working on small family farms, a portion of these children may be trafficked in from extremely poor countries, such as Mali and Burkina Faso. Since 2007, the CSR office has encouraged Hershey to address its cocoa bean sourcing, encouraging equitable pay for farmers and fair labor standards for workers as a way to combat the need for child labor in the cocoa farms. In 2011, concerned investors engaged with Hershey to discuss the company’s first corporate responsibility report and held other meetings with the company to discuss supply chain issues. Corporate engagement is an essential tool for socially responsible investors.

Negative Impacts of Corporate Political Spending

On July 6, 2010, Target, along with Best Buy and other companies, donated money to the Minnesota governor’s race to support an anti-gay candidate. The candidate for governor, Minnesota state representative Tom Emmer, has adopted a highly adversarial stance toward the LGBT community. He opposes same-sex marriage and led an effort to deny LGBT couples full parental rights in Minnesota. In addition, his campaign made a contribution to a Christian hard rock ministry that praised Muslim countries that execute their citizens for homosexuality as being “more moral than even the American Christians.” Target, which is generally known for its good treatment of gay employees, now finds itself the subject of a boycott by gay rights supporters. On Aug. 5, Target’s CEO publicly apologized for the political donation. However, this points to the need for transparent political spending disclosure as a way to prevent the reputational risk as it was exposed in this case. Members of ICCR, including United Church Funds, are filing targeted shareholder resolutions at the two corporations. “Shareholder resolutions at Target and Best Buy should serve to alert companies of the importance of a careful and comprehensive review of their contributions policies, oversight, risk assessment and disclosure as they consider earmarking shareholder funds for political purposes,” said Tim Smith of Walden Asset Management, the primary filer of the Target resolution. “A good corporate political contribution policy should prevent the kind of debacle Target and Best Buy walked into. We expect companies to evaluate candidate based upon the range of their positions – not simply one area — and assess whether they are in alignment with their core values. But these companies’ policies are clearly lacking that,” said Shelley Alpern of Trillium Asset Management, the primary filer of the Best Buy resolution.

 
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