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July 27, 2015
EIRIS Compiles Database of Companies Doing Business in Crimea and Palestine
    by Robert Kropp

The EIRIS Foundation releases an online database of companies in Crimea and Palestine, providing for investors and other stakeholders objective and independent research about corporate activity in occupied territories.


The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, led earlier this year to the launch of the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework, a device to provide guidance to companies on human rights. The Framework was quickly endorsed by an investor coalition representing $4 trillion in assets under management.

The risk of human rights violations are greatest, of course, in areas of conflict and occupation. In order to assist investors and other stakeholders in the evaluation of companies doing business in such regions, the
EIRIS Foundation recently released an online database of companies doing business in the occupied lands of Crimea and Palestine. The database follows the release by EIRIS of earlier databases listing companies doing business in Sudan and Burma.

Thirty of the companies listed in the database—including eight headquartered in the US—are in the Global Fortune 500.

Most of the US-based companies with a history of doing business in Crimea have halted their operations there, following the imposition of sanctions in January, 2015, in response to the Russian military occupation. However, according to the database, five US-based companies continue to do business there despite the sanctions. Equivalent sanctions have not been imposed on companies doing business in lands occupied by Israel, such as Palestine. The database provides information on companies that persist in doing so despite the human rights and reputational risks.

A 2014 report by the Tel Aviv-based
research organization Who Profits highlighted the corporate responsibility of heavy equipment operators such a Caterpillar in the occupied territories, noting that the company's equipment is involved in house demolitions, military uses, and construction of illegal settlements and military checkpoints. For several years, members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) have filed shareowner resolutions with Caterpillar, requesting that the company amend its current human rights policy and monitor the amended policy for its effectiveness.

However, Caterpillar has claimed that it is constrained by anti-boycott legislation in the US, and that it prefers a “resolution to be reached via political and diplomatic channels,” rather than through response to shareowner action.

Caterpillar is one US-headquartered corporation listed in the EIRIS database, as is Hewlett-Packard, described in the database as “a major provider of security systems in West Bank check points and prisons, including Ofer Prison located in the West Bank.” Overall, the Palestine database contains 80 publicly-listed companies in settlements and 70 publicly-listed companies in non-settlement areas. Coca-Cola, Daimler, Expedia, Hewlett-Packard, Priceline Group and Yum! Brands are the only six companies active in both settlement and non-settlement areas of Palestine.

“Until now, investors have had little access to objective information about corporate presence and operations in the occupied territories of Crimea and Palestine,” Kathy Mulvey, director of EIRIS Conflict Risk Network, said. “Publication of this database of companies active in these regions has begun to address this lack of access.”

 

 
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