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October 19, 2009
Investors Urge Companies to Distance Themselves from Associations Over Climate Change
    by Robert Kropp

A letter to 14 companies notes misalignment between their positions on climate change and that of the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.


In the wake of recent high-profile withdrawals of companies from the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) over the positions of the associations on climate change—Nike resigned its seat on the Chamber's board, while Apple left the Chamber altogether, and Duke Energy left NAM—influential institutional investors are now pressuring other companies to follow suit.

In a letter to 14 companies that are members of the Chamber and/or NAM, 43 investors and investor organizations with over $16 billion in assets under management commended the companies for their adoption of public positions in support of climate change legislation, but expressed "concern over the glaring contradictions between the company's position" and that of the associations.

The signatories of the letter include Tim Smith, Senior Vice President of Walden Asset Management, and Kristina Curtis, Senior Vice President of Green Century Capital Management. Among the letter's recipients are Air Products & Chemicals, Alcoa, American Electric Power, Boeing Company, Caterpillar, Cummins, Deere & Co., DTE Energy, Entergy, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Lockheed Martin, Whirlpool, and Xerox.

Citing recent findings by the Center for Political Accountability (CPA) that such a misalignment of positions on climate change between companies and the associations in which they are members poses risks to companies and their shareowners, the letter urges each recipient company to "integrate its political spending and association memberships with its publicly stated, forward looking policy and positions on climate change."

The signatories provide a number of recommendations for the companies to consider. They can follow the examples set by Nike, Apple, and Duke Energy, by either withdrawing their membership or resigning from the boards of the associations. They can publicly declare that they do not share the positions of the associations on climate change, and request that the associations publicly acknowledge the misalignment. The companies can disclose the portion of their membership dues that are used by the associations to lobby for political purposes, and request refunds for the portion used by the associations to lobby on climate change.

Emily Stone, Shareholder Advocate for Green Century Capital Management, said, "We are at a critical crossroads between a polluting, dangerous path and a clean energy future, and we believe it is now more important than ever for companies to take clear action to preserve their leadership roles on this critical issue by distancing themselves from the antagonistic lobbying of business associations such as the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers."

 

 
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