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December 22, 2004
Dell and Starbucks First Companies to Endorse Calvert Women's Principles
    by William Baue

The two companies publicly commit to implement the code in their business practices, setting a precedent for other companies to follow in promoting parity for women in business.


Earlier this week, Dell (ticker: DELL) and Starbucks (SBUX) became the first corporations to endorse the Calvert Women's Principles, a code that encompasses seven broad goals for promoting gender equity and women's empowerment. The Calvert Group, the largest socially responsible investment (SRI) mutual fund firm in the US with approximately $10 billion in assets under management, launched the principles earlier this year to address the under- acknowledged issue of systemic gender bias in the corporate community. Calvert also believes there are unrealized business opportunities to profit from unleashing women's fuller potential.

"Starbucks enthusiastically supports the Calvert Women's Principles because we see a strong business case for gender equality and women's empowerment," said Sandra Taylor, senior vice president for corporate responsibility at Starbucks.

By endorsing the principles, Starbucks and Dell not only publicly support the principles' goals, but also commit to taking concrete steps to implement the principles in their business practices over time, according to Elizabeth Laurienzo, Calvert's director of corporate communications.

"Currently, Calvert is encouraging companies to voluntarily endorse the principles," Ms. Laurienzo told SocialFunds.com. "However, we are exploring ways to monitor companies' progress and track compliance with the Women's Principles and to develop grading and rating systems for measuring companies' performance."

"Auditing and verification regimes will need to be developed," she added. "In the meantime, we have been careful to place disclosure and reporting at the heart of the Calvert Women's Principles, and have included specific principles on these issues."

The principles also address employment and income; health, safety, and violence; civic and community engagement; management and governance; education, training, and professional development; and business, supply chain, and marketing practices.

As of now, there is one more company ready to endorse the principles, according to Ms. Laurienzo, and other companies are encouraged to endorse them as well. As an added inducement, Calvert is working on incorporating the principles into its screening process--companies that do not address the women's issues articulated in the principles increase the risk of being excluded from Calvert portfolios.

"We also plan to launch ratings of companies based on their performance on specific issues next year," Ms. Laurienzo added.

If companies perform particularly poorly on the principles' indicators, Calvert intends to engage them in dialogue, and is prepared to file shareowner resolutions on these issues if companies continue to be unresponsive. As of now, however, Calvert has no plans to engage on shareowner action on issues enumerated in the principles this upcoming proxy season.

 

 
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