Responsible Water Use.
The Real Assets resolution
with Pepsi received an 8% vote in favour, which is more than twice the
required level to re-file the resolution next year. Ironically, just
two weeks after this vote on water scarcity issues, the company faced
the potential loss of one of its bottling plants in India. The New York
Times reported that the village government of Pudussery, in
southwestern India, revoked Pepsi’s water use permit over concerns that
it was over pumping the local aquifer. Well. “We told you so, Pepsi!”
The company, which had originally tried to block this resolution at the
Securities and Exchange Commission level, (unsuccessfully) now seems to
be a little more interested in talking about a problem that clearly is
not going away anytime soon. Of course we would rather see action, but
it’s a start. But world water use problems are much larger than just
the possible abuses by the Cola kings. They were a convenient focus for
the initial campaign, which will try to broaden its focus over the next
10 of the world’s leading
banks, including Citigroup, Barclays, ABN Amro and Credit Suisse, have
agreed to adopt the “Equator Principles” to adhere to strict
environmental and social impact standards when financing dams, power
plants, pipelines and similar infrastructure projects worldwide. This
has come out of mounting pressure from protest groups as well as an
ongoing dialogue with, among others, Friends of the Earth, Trillium
Asset Management, Christian Brothers Investment Services, Ethical Funds
and Real Assets, which has been underway since late 1999. Adherence is
voluntary and many think that the agreement does not go nearly far
enough, but clearly a good first step in raising the bar for all banks
when considering projects like the Three Gorges dam.
The Oxfam led resolution
has been filed with Procter and Gamble, asking them to do more to help
small coffee growers through Fair Trade sourcing and other initiatives
to address the current coffee crisis brought on by oversupply and prices
well below the cost of production for small farmers around the world.
There is an ongoing dialogue with P&G on this issue. To date there
has been no firm consensus established among the diverse participants.
Stay tuned and demand fair trade for your morning coffee!
Next issue I will present a scorecard on this year’s corporate
engagement campaigns in the areas of Human Rights, Responsible Finance,
Climate Change and Water Use. Lots of small victories, but they will
all be back again for next year. Later in the summer I’ll report on a
couple of new focus areas that will be added to the list.
Perry Abbey is an
investment advisor at United Capital Securities Inc., a Working
Enterprises company. Helping individuals and organizations harmonize
their money with their values and leverage capital for change. firstname.lastname@example.org