What I Advocated on My Summer Vacation(A)
The September issue of Investing for a Better World seems an appropriate time for a “What-I-Did-On-My-Summer-Vacation”-style update on some of my recent advocacy. Demonstrating that those of us in the United States just don’t take vacations like our European counterparts, in August alone I had in-person or phone meetings with staff at AIG, Bank of America, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Ecolab, Intel, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Sysco, and Weyerhaeuser. I didn’t even try for French-based Danone, assuming that anyone there I wanted to talk to would be out for the month of August. Among some of the highlights:
We led two calls for dozens of investors to ask Coca Cola and PepsiCo how they are addressing allegations that their products in India have unsafe levels of pesticide residues. These allegations are controversial and India’s Health Minister has dismissed them, but we pressed Coca Cola and PepsiCo to take strong steps to safeguard their products, engage with their critics, and put the controversy behind them. Both companies have installed new filtration systems to ensure the safety of their products, are working to decrease pesticide use by their suppliers, and are moving towards agreeing to a common test method that will allow the Indian government to finalize safety standards for their products.
We learned that we helped convince Intel, which already had strong programs in place to reduce its water use, to adopt a new formal Water Conservation Strategy with new water use reduction goals to meet by 2010.
We worked to hold Weyerhaeuser accountable for its lobbying by pointing out the disconnect between its laudable announcement this summer that it will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent and its lead role in opposing a citizens initiative in Washington state to require utilities in the state to boost their use of renewable energy sources 15 percent by 2020.
Of course, we meet with lots of groups other than companies. This August, for instance, I talked with staff at Business for Social Responsibility, the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation looking to identify leading edge practices in water stewardship we should promote in the corporate sector.
Thinking back to earlier in the summer, we led an initiative by the Social Investment Research Analysts Network (SIRAN) in partnership with research firm KLD Research and Analytics to produce a new study on how some of the biggest companies in the U.S. are reporting on their environmental and social performance. The study of reporting practices among the S&P 100, found that more than three-quarters (79 companies) now have special sections of their websites dedicated to sharing information about their social and environmental policies and performance. This represents a 34% increase from last year, when 59 companies in the S&P 100 included this information on their websites. Over a third of the S&P 100 Index (34 companies) now base their corporate social responsibility reports on a widely recognized external standard for reporting called the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. This was up sharply from 2005, when 25 companies in the S&P based their reports on the GRI guidelines. The uptick reflects a concerted outreach effort by Trillium Asset Management and other SIRAN members to promote reporting based on the GRI standard. For more on the study, visit http://www.siran.org/csr.php.
Oh, one little thing I shouldn’t forget to mention is that I also got married this summer and head out on my honeymoon for the first couple weeks of September. Then it’s back to work just in time for shareholder filing season this fall. Well, unlike grade school when I had to rely on the use of the word “very” a lot towards the end of my essays, I’m actually over my word limit and should sign off for now.