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The Columbia Journal
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  • Volume Eight, Number Five: July 2003

    2003 Shareholder Campaign Highlights

    Deb and Perry Abbey                           


    On the shareholder action front we had an active 2003 proxy-voting season and we’re currently finalizing campaign issues for the upcoming season.  We’ll start filing shareholder resolutions in early fall. In addition to current campaigns, we’re launching two new campaigns:

    Glass Ceiling

    The evidence is in. Companies with female representation at senior levels are more profitable. This issue has been largely overlooked in Canada and progress is long overdue. Our campaign will encourage companies to establish policies that give women greater access to line and board positions. These include family friendly policies as well as policies that actively seek to combat stereotyping of female abilities and skill sets.

    HIV/AIDS

    Many large companies operating in Africa increasingly find themselves in the public health industry as they struggle to deal with the financial consequences of this epidemic. Rising absenteeism and higher employee turnover has forced companies to employ and train more people than usual. AIDS has also forced executives to spend more time coping with low morale and addressing the difficult legal, social and political issues that stem from the epidemic. We will ask Canadian resource companies operating in sub-Saharan Africa to implement treatment and prevention programs that help decelerate the debilitating spread of HIV/AIDS in the workforce.

    Campaign Updates:

    Water Campaign

    Real Assets continues to work closely with Trillium Asset Management in the US and in the absence of any significant progress by the company will re-file their resolution with Pepsi next year after winning eight per cent of the vote at this year’s AGM. This was more than double the vote needed in order to re-file. Ironically, barely a week after the AGM, the New York Times reported that the village government of Pudussery in southwestern India had revoked Pepsi’s water-use license. The license wasn’t due to expire until 2005, but the community was concerned that Pepsi was over pumping local aquifers.

    Human Rights

    Real Assets joined other social investors, NGOs and religious groups and co-filed a shareholder resolution on April 24th, 2003 calling on Procter & Gamble to do more to help the farmers who grow its coffee by purchasing a portion of its coffee beans from Fair Trade sources, signing up to international coffee quality standards, and supporting a multilateral, multi-stakeholder initiative to address the structural causes of the current coffee crisis. After engaging in dialogue with the company for several months we were pleased to withdraw the proposal when Procter & Gamble agreed to launch a Fair Trade Certified Millstone product on-line beginning September 1, 2003, with a projected retail launch a year later. We think that this is an important step toward improving the lives of coffee farmers and their communities.

    Responsible Finance

    For the past two years Real Assets has been working with a coalition of social investors representing over $23 billion in socially screened assets to hold major global financial institutions such as Citigroup and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter accountable for the social and environmental impacts of their activities.

    Recently, 10 of the world’s leading banks including Citigroup, Barclays, ABN Amro, Royal Bank of Scotland and Credit Suisse have signed on to the “Equator Principles” - a set of voluntary guidelines for managing social and environmental issues while financing international development projects such as dams, power plants, pipelines and similar infrastructure projects around the world. The principles came out of mounting pressure from protest groups as well as the ongoing dialogue with Real Assets, Friends of the Earth, Christian Brothers Investment Services, Trillium Asset Management, Ethical Funds and others. Adherence to the principles is voluntary and many don’t think they go far enough but it’s clearly a good first step in raising the bar for all the banks when they consider financing projects like the Three Gorges Dam in China.

    Perry is an investment advisor at United Capital Securities, a Working Enterprises company. Helping individuals and organizations harmonize their money with their values and leverage capital for change. Real Assets is Canada’s first Investment Management firm solely focused on Social Investment, and is both a VanCity and a Working Enterprises company.

     





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