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October 25, 2014
Financing Food Justice a Priority for ICCR Members
    by Robert Kropp

Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility commemorated the recent World Food Day by calling for sustainable food systems and palm oil sourcing.

World Food Day was celebrated last week, and sustainable investors associated with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) used the opportunity to highlight the need for corporations to improve sustainability in palm oil sourcing and food systems in general.

According to the organizers of the October 16th World Food Day observation, 805 million people remain chronically undernourished, a number which threatens to grow exponentially as the effects of climate change worsen and a world population of nine billion by 2050 further strains already challenged natural resources. Engaging with corporations that have grown comfortable with externalizing their social and environmental costs is unlikely to solve all the ills looming on their near horizon, but that is what sustainable investors do: bring the fight for justice into capital markets that contributed to injustice in the first place.

ICCR member Green Century Capital Management, whose fossil fuel free investment offerings predated the divestment movement by several years, has also been a leading firm in pressuring companies in the food and personal products industries to ensure that their palm oil sourcing is sustainable. Palm oil is the most widely used oil in the world, and deforestation to make way for plantations has had a devastating effect on climate change mitigation.

Last month, Green Century announced that the world’s five largest growers of palm oil have agreed “to halt the clearance of high carbon stock (HCS) forests while they conduct a yearlong study aimed at defining the threshold for forest protection.” The agreement came after Green Century and other sustainable investors had secured agreements from major corporations to ensure that the palm oil the sourced did not contribute to further deforestation.

“Beyond the serious environmental impacts of palm oil production, the US Department of Labor cites the palm oil industry as one of the most notorious for slavery and the use of forced and/or trafficked migrant laborers including children,” Green Century Shareholder Advocate Lucia von Reusner said. “Green Century has worked with a network of investors at ICCR and Ceres to press the companies we invest in to verify that the palm oil they purchase is traceable to suppliers independently verified as slavery-free and environmentally sustainable.”

ICCR's Financing Food Justice campaign goes beyond addressing issues surrounding palm oil to encompass the necessity of a sustainable food system in its entirety. “In order to feed our planet’s growing population, expected to be 9 billion by 2050, ICCR calls on food, meat and commodities producers to embrace a strategy to reduce environmental impacts and conserve natural resources,” ICCR Program Director Nadira Narine said. ICCR calls on companies to do the following:
1. minimize, monitor, and measure water consumption, wastewater discharges and impacts on groundwater in all business operations and supply chains;
2. conduct regular impact assessments of the food security implications of company land and water use along the value chain;
3. formalize policies regarding land and water use in relation to marginalized rural communities and the potential impacts to their food security;
4. implement animal welfare guidelines that support humane conditions and avoid close confinement and large-scale, geographically-intensive livestock operations; and,
5. increase farmers’ preparedness and resilience in the face of more frequent and extreme weather events by assessing risk and vulnerability and developing and sharing strategies for more efficient use of natural resources.


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