written by Linda Gaither
The Episcopal Church’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility will celebrate 50 years of advocacy in 2021. The committee was created by the Executive Council in 1971 and oversaw the filing of the first ever shareholder resolution by a faith based organization. The resolution asked General Motors to withdraw from apartheid South Africa. Presiding Bishop John Hines personally spoke to the resolution at GM’s annual meeting. A video is being prepared that will chronicle the faithful behind-the-scenes work of corporate engagement and action for responsible investing over the last 50 years. This is a video that EPF PIN members won’t want to miss! It will be an educational opportunity to learn about the quiet, persistent work of volunteer CCSR members supported by staff and consultants, who, working with interdenominational allies, bring Gospel values to the “worldly” process of investment.
Since General Convention 2018, CCSR has worked to implement PIN-supported Resolution B016: calling for a Human Rights Investment Screen for Israel/Palestine thus establishing a No-Buy List for church investments, and divestment from companies already in the portfolio. B016 was adopted by the 2018 General Convention in Austin, Texas. According to the Episcopal News Service: Bishop Dan Edwards of Nevada spoke in favor of B016 before the vote, saying it balances targeted divestment from companies when appropriate with shareholder activism when that might produce greater results. “There is a time to disinvest, and there is a time to do shareholder activism,” Edwards said. “This resolution provides for both of those. To do one without the other is to limp badly.”
Subsequently CCSR prepared and Council adopted the screen in October 2019. As a result, Council approved divestment from Caterpillar, Motorola and the Israel Discount Bank. Last month, CCSR recommended and the Executive Committee of Council added Leumi Bank and DXC (formerly part of Hewlett-Packard), bringing to five the companies from which TEC has divested since General Convention 2018 on the basis of human rights violations. Corporate engagement with several companies, including Trip Advisor and Booking.com will be on-going in the coming year. These companies advertise in the illegal West Bank Settlements. Engagement involves an interdenominational presence at shareholder meetings, advocating for corporate compliance with international human rights.
The screen was made to apply to human rights issues globally, with specific criteria for Israel/Palestine. Thus CCSR is challenging companies to observe human rights wherever they operate, including Myanmar (on behalf of the Rohingya) and China (on behalf of the Uighur). Environmental justice and human rights issues often overlap. Currently, a new effort vis a vis Chevron has emerged. Chevron has purchased Noble Energy, leader in gas drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, including off the coast of Gaza. Correspondence has been sent by interdenominational advocates to Chevron’s corporate headquarters requesting further information on its corporate human rights policy.
The work of CCSR demonstrates that the way we deal with our money and investments witnesses to our grounding in the spiritual gifts which are ours in Baptism. Among the many gifts given for spiritual discernment, such as teaching, prophecy, and healing, is administration or oversight. Those charged with oversight are called to be exemplary in love. This means that God’s love for Creation must shine forth in all of our decision-making, including the ways we invest our treasure to further our mission. Therefore, attention must be paid to social responsibility in investments. The ultimate question faces us: does this investment promote abundant life for all Creation or does it underwrite death-dealing forces that prey on the human community and the natural world? EPF PIN believes that justice is love in action. We are thankful for the dedicated work of CCSR, putting love in action over 50 years. We look forward to celebrating that witness in 2021.
Dr. Linda Gaither is an active member of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Slaterville Springs, New York. She is a co-chair of the Steering Committee for the Palestine Israel Network, a part of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.