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July 01, 2015
Investors Tell Corporations to Meet Burma Reporting Requirements
    by Robert Kropp

Sustainable investment firms representing more than $40 billion in assets under management write to three corporations doing business in Burma, urging them to comply with the Burma Responsible Investment Reporting Requirements.


All too often, the machinations at the nexus of global politics and corporate activity fail to prioritize human rights, even when safeguards are put in place. In Burma, one such safeguard is the Burma Responsible Investment Reporting Requirements, enacted by the US government following the easing of sanctions in 2013. Corporations whose aggregate investments in Burma exceed $500,000 are required to report on their operations as well as the environmental and human rights policies they have in place.

One year after the Requirements were enacted,
US Campaign for Burma published a Report Card analyzing the transparency of companies doing business in Burma. Of the six companies analyzed by the Campaign, three were graded as irresponsible and two more as questionable. Only Coca-Cola was graded as responsible, the report found, and even its reporting of policies and procedures were incomplete.

Also in 2014, the the UK- based investment research firm EIRIS established
Investm ent Watch: Burma/Myanmar, a service designed to help investors assess the risks to corporations doing business in Burma. In the second installment of the Watch, EIRIS found that none of the 14 companies assessed earned an overall grade of good; “which would indicate that a company was managing the risks related to its Burma/Myanmar investments,” EIRIS stated.

In June of this year, eleven institutional investors representing more than $40 billion in assets under management wrote to three corporations that have begun doing business in Burma—Caterpillar, Chevron, and Hilton Worldwide—and urged them to submit reports on their investments as mandated by the Reporting Requirements.

According to EIRIS, none of the three companies have submitted reports or explained why they have failed to do so. “To fulfill our responsibility to respect human rights, to avoid complicity in human rights abuses and to protect the long-term value of our investment portfolios, we as institutional investors need comprehensive and current information about the impact of new U.S. investments and business activity in Burma/Myanmar,” the letters state.

“In addition to any risks stemming from failure to comply with the U.S. Government reporting requirements, the information contained in these reports is valuable,” the letters continue. “We strongly encourage you to comply with these requirements in order to provide your investors with the information they need to evaluate your decision to engage in economic activity in Burma/Myanmar.”

At the time of the letters' publication, thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution and forced labor were stranded at sea; about 5,000 have been rescued since May, and the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations recently announced the establishment of a humanitarian fund for the refugees.

In addition to EIRIS, signatories to the three letters include Boston Common Asset Management, Calvert Investments, Clean Yield Asset Management, Dignity Health, Domini Social Investments, Everence, Miller/Howard Investments, Sonen Capital, Trillium Asset Management, Walden Asset Management, and Zevin Asset Management.

In May, for the third consecutive year, President Obama issued an Executive Order continuing the national emergency with respect to Burma. As a result, the reporting requirements will remain in place for at least another year.

 

 
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