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Environment to human rights: socially responsible investing

Wed, Jan 2, 2013

Members of the 300 institutions comprising the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, interacting via their web site, have chosen these 10 most intractable Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues impacting the Earth and its people:

Sustainable use of water resources that respect the universal right to water

Usable freshwater is limited to only 2.6 percent of the water on the Earth’s surface. Humans use 54 percent of the Earth’s accessible freshwater but by 2028, this figure could rise to 90 percent.

Influencing companies to adopt practices that are aligned with a safe, secure, healthy and sustainable food system.

Agricultural production will need to increase 70 percent to feed the global population of nine billion people expected by 2050. As a result of unfair trade, production and distribution practices, today’ food system fails to provide equitable access to nutrition for nearly 1 in 7 people.

Social sustainability: bringing the human and community impact of doing business to the forefront of corporate consciousness and the core of business planning.

In its Addressing the Root Causes of Economic and Social Injustice, Oxfam described the importance of balancing power relations between parties so that communities have input into corporate activity that impacts their destinies.

Human Trafficking: engaging publicly held companies to address forced child labor and human trafficking for sexual and economic purposes.

Vulnerable people are recruited, transported, harbored or received through coercion or fraud into forced labor, sexual exploitation, prostitution or soldiering. An ICCR investor coalition corresponded with London hotels and Olympic sponsors asking them to be sure their businesses were free of trafficking and slavery, based on the last two Super Bowls in the US and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Environmental Health: working to ensure adoption of safer policies

Starting in 1971, six Protestant denominations were concerned about copper mining in Puerto Rico. In 2010 ICCR was part of a global investor campaign that pressed BP for greater risk management after its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This year, it has filed 10 resolutions addressing community and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

Global Health: every pharmaceutical company incorporating access to medicines into its core business model, from geographic focus, to product development to delivery system

According to the World Health Organization, between 1.3 and 2.1 billion people lack essential health care, including access to affordable medicines. They need affordable treatment for HIV and also diabetes, heart disease and asthmas as well as neglected tropical diseases such as dengue fever, Chagas disease, sleeping sickness and blinding trachmona.

Domestic Health: advocating for quality and affordable health care for all

According to the 2010 Census, more than 50 million Americans are uninsured and premiums on employer-provided premiums rose faster than both wages and inflation. Meanwhile, big pharma face increased regulatory requirements, insufficient innovation and intense competition from smaller manufacturers. There’s rising prices on medical devices and industry lobbying against full implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Financial Practices and Risk:

Greater transparency, risk management and accountability across the financial sector and improved access to credit and capital for the marginalized and underserved

Supply chain monitoring:

Engaging companies to adopt programs, policies and practices that account for the short and long-term sustainability of workers and communities impacted by their operations.

An example is the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010, which requires major retailers to put a link on their homepage detailing their efforts to address human trafficking and slavery.

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