April 2016 - Volume 14, Issue 2  
ICCR Conference Brings Opportunity 
to Study Issues of the Day
by Pat Zerega

Josh Zinner, new director of the ICCR, meets with, from left: Sister Judy Byron and Margaret Weber of the PAB and Pat Zerega of Mercy Investment Services.

Sister Judy Byron and Margaret Weber, of the Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) and Pat Zerega, of Mercy Investment Services, our partner, attended the February conference of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). The conference was exciting and energizing. It was led by Josh Zinner, ICCR's new executive director ----  the fourth director in ICCR's 45-year history.

Josh joins the ICCR at a crucial time for the membership. As faith communities experience the mergers of religious communities, the decline in numbers in Protestant denominations, and the growth in the Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) community, ICCR faces new opportunities and challenges. Faith-based investors bring to the table long-term relationships with corporations, and the SRI community has the resources for research on the critical issues of our day.

Here are some reflections from the conference.

Global Health....
The work began with ICCR's Vision for Global Health: that pharmaceutical companies have a moral obligation to address the access to health needs of the most vulnerable. The Access to Medicines Index (ATMI), published every two years, ranks the world's 20 largest pharmaceutical companies according to their efforts to improve access to medicine in 107 low- to middle-income countries (MICs). Jayasree Iyer, Executive Director of the ATMI, shared a preview of the 2016 edition, noting that MICs bear 70 percent of the total disease burden and have 75 percent of all people living on less than $1 per day. The 2016 Index will evaluate companies on how they address the needs of the very poor in MICs.

This session explored how a company can go about implementing a "no fees" policy in its efforts to combat human trafficking. Bob Mitchell and Cimarron Nix, of Hewlett Packard, said that three keys to success are educating suppliers, monitoring supplier performance, and working in industry coalitions. They added that these coalitions are most effective when stakeholders ----  as well as corporate executives ----  work with investors.

Dialogue Highlights...
  • Merck ----  Sister Judy Byron leads the dialogue with Merck. Global health work with Merck began in 2001 with shareholders calling on the company to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic in African countries. The annual dialogue always concludes with Merck thanking faith-based shareholders for helping it to fulfill its mission to improve the health and wellness of people by expanding access to medicines and vaccines.
  • Walmart ----  ICCR members received the annual report from Walmart, which included information on the rates of employees who receive health benefits. The report showed an increase from 2015. The company has also aggregated vacation, sick, personal, and holiday time into Paid Time Off (PTO), allowing employees to accrue PTO after 90 days rather than 12 months. 
  • Coca-Cola participated with ICCR in a dialogue concerning water. Companies such as Coca-Cola make a clear distinction between the parent company and the bottlers and subsidiaries whose goals impact the system. The company has a strong statement on respecting the human right to water and sanitation, participates in the CEO Water Mandate, and this year has published specific guidance for each business unit on water goals. 
  • Johnson & Johnson spoke to its commitment to a 20 percent absolute reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050.

PAB Offers Resource to Help Investors
Make Socially Responsible Decisions

In a presentation directed to small individual investors ("indies"), the PAB offers tips on such steps as setting up investment filters, taking into account such factors as which types of investments to avoid and which to support, as well as information on how a small investor can influence the behavior of corporations.

Read a recent article on the presentation or access the slideshow.

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