Wednesday, August 22, 2007

We resolve

An editorial in the latest issue of Catholic New York has an important editorial on a proposal that could severely limit and possibly eliminate the right of shareholders to sponsor advisory resolutions.

FOR YEARS, socially responsible investment groups—many of them faith-based—have used shareholder resolutions to bring to the attention of corporate boards their views on various issues aimed at nudging companies to do the right thing.

Most of the resolutions these days deal with issues such as climate change, executive pay and human rights and other social justice concerns. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were many resolutions calling for corporate disinvestment in South Africa over its apartheid policies. Others pressured companies to reject Northern Ireland hiring practices that discriminated against Catholics.

Resolutions that are accepted (and not all of them are) are placed on a corporation's annual proxy statement for a vote, which every shareholder receives. In that way, every person who holds a share in the company has a chance to weigh in on the issue.

Many of these resolutions have received overwhelming support from shareholders. They are, however, advisory only. Corporate boards do not have to address them.
Even so, shareholder resolutions have become an important way for small investors to have a say in the policies of companies in which they hold stock, and to hold them accountable for their practices. They are also a good way to raise corporate and public awareness of troubling issues.

The resolutions also, apparently, have opened a much-needed dialogue between corporate boards and their shareholders. John Wilson, director of socially responsible investing for Christian Brothers Investment Services in Manhattan and a member of the board of governors of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, says that a quarter of a century ago, no one wanted to listen to what CBIS had to say in board rooms and corporate annual meetings.

Today, the group is a respected force for positive change in corporate America and has encountered more and more instances where the management of major corporations—including Tyco and Newmont Mining— have actually encouraged shareholders to vote for CBIS-sponsored resolutions.

Clearly, more companies are seeing the value of dialogue with shareholders and have become more engaged and involved. To socially responsible investment groups, this is progress. Progress that would not have been made without the key tool of the shareholder resolution.

To learn about the threat to shareholder resolutions, go here.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Come to the picnic

The 4th Annual Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace Picnic will be Sunday, August 12, from 3 p.m. until dusk at the Elm Avenue Park in Delmar.
Join us again this year for lots of conversation, great food, volley ball and a walk in the park. This will be a pot luck so please bring a dish to share and you own place settings if possible. We will have some extra place settings but would like to keep the garbage to a minimum. Thanks. See you there. Call or email Trudy if you are willing to help set up or clean up for this event. 391-2830 or Thanks. New members always welcome.

While you are at the Elm Avenue Park, stop by and visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall replica, visiting Delmar from August 8-12.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The American Flag

Charlotte Aldebron, 12, wrote this essay for a competition in her 6th grade English class. She attends Cunningham Middle School in Presque Island, Maine.

What The American Flag Stands For

by Charlotte Aldebron

The American flag stands for the fact that cloth can be very important. It is against the law to let the flag touch the ground or to leave the flag flying when the weather is bad. The flag has to be treated with respect. You can tell how important this cloth is because when you compare it to people, it gets much better treatment. Nobody cares if a homeless person touches the ground. A homeless person can lie all over the ground all night long without anyone picking him up, folding him neatly and sheltering him from the rain.

School children have to pledge loyalty to this cloth every morning. No one has to pledge loyalty to justice and equality and human decency. No one has to promise that people will get a fair wage, or enough food to eat, or affordable medicine, or clean water, or air free of harmful chemicals. But we all have to promise to love a rectangle of red, white, and blue cloth.

Betsy Ross would be quite surprised to see how successful her creation has become. But Thomas Jefferson would be disappointed to see how little of the flag’s real meaning remains.

The essay was printed in the April 3, 2002 Common Dreams website. Charlotte’s mom, Jillian, said that her daughter’s teacher told Charlotte that she was unpatriotic.