Iccpr, ICR, Mr Judy Byron discussed on The Indicator from Planet Money

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For this episode of the indicator and the following message come from capital one Ken Dolan and his team built no the intelligent assistant who proactively alerts customers to fraud and other account activity we know people are just trying to live their lives and we try to empower E-e-e-e-no to only interrupt them from their life when absolutely necessary just like you would want a human assistant to do stay tuned after the episode to learn how can and his team at capital one programmed to proactively help customers manage their finances okay so mary this story of nuns who are trying to get their way on gun control. Where does it start. It starts with a group called the interfaith center on corporate responsibility. It is yeah. You showed me their website earlier mary. It's like this coalition of some three hundred groups and it includes members who are like just traditional financial institutions but it also has these faith-based groups and that's where the nuns come in yes mary. What is the story about? ICR that you wanNA tell us so back in two thousand twelve there was a mass mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut and Twenty Six people died twenty of whom were children and when politicians failed to do really anything anything in response to that ICCPR felt like they had to do something about it so I spoke with Mr Judy Byron. She is the director of a regional group within ICCPR and I remember Sandy Hook and thinking. You know if we don't do something now as a country we never will. I mean these are little kids and we know that you you know there was a movement that we basically did nothing. Here's where the story takes a turn into our world finance. Normally investors who consider themselves socially responsible like these nuns would not by what are called sin stocks shares of companies that do bad stuff like make guns are cigarettes or whatever on the other hand these is not also realized that being shareholder of these companies means corporate management should have to listen to them because they're the owners yeah. I mean you would think that being a shareholder is at least supposed to give you access to the managers right. You can attend shareholder meetings and speak you can request a meeting and you might even get one so since relying on politicians nations didn't really work. Iccpr decided to turn to the markets because it markets at least have these rules and lovers that actually can work so in the fall of twenty sixteen. They started buying lying shares. They bought shares in two of the major gun makers. Sturm Ruger and American outdoor brands not a huge number of shares but some okay so these nuns the ICR Dr the coalition of Religious Groups they've started putting their money where their principles are so to speak and then one so the next summer this we're now into twenty seventeen. They privately wrote the company's trying to kind of engage them in conversation notice a little time goes by and in January of last year they quietly begin to file oh shareholder resolutions which are basically cordial corporate requests from shareholders for management to please consider something so the nuns wanted basically three things I for these gun companies simply to report on their efforts to make their product safer second for the gun companies also to prepare reports on the reputational and financial risks from from their products and third for them to monitor violent events like mass shootings but not much came of these resolutions okay and then came Parkland to park of course this was is the very tragic mass shooting from early last year that I think a lot of people remember that's right February fourteenth two thousand eighteen shooter killed seventeen students and faculty and injured seventeen nineteen more at Marjory stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida and that catalyze this huge wave of outrage right over gun violence and gun control but once again a lot of if people were disappointed by the political response disappointed that no new laws were passed here sister judy again we just can't let the kids do the heavy lifting in our society we we really need to step up and be with them and also show leadership so the nuns and ICR decided to act more forcefully so I they joined other activists in criticizing the banks that lend money to the gun companies but second remember those shareholder resolutions that they'd quietly gently sent to the companies companies asking them to report on how they were making gun safer in the company's kind of blew him off this time. ICCPR went public with those resolutions and put them into a shareholder vote and the shareholder resolutions passed with huge support okay so I mean in that case. It kind of sounds like they kind of yeah. They did get their reports. in the reports the companies defend themselves by saying that the problem isn't the people who buy their products. It's criminals doing bad things but the truth is the reports themselves solve our kind of toothless. They don't really compel the companies to change anything that they actually do. They're just a sign that they've complied with what shareholders asked but it's something. ICR did show that they could get something from the gun companies. Yeah it sounds from the way you're describing that this is a kind of symbolic victory. I mean these reports as you described them are toothless but you still have a situation where this group of nuns and these other religious groups did compel companies to do something right and they compelled them to do something using the markets rather than other forms of of persuasion so what's happening now so for the nuns it seems like some of the momentum has dissipated this past. Tuesday the annual shareholder meeting for American outdoor brands. ICCO had another resolution up for a vote vote it was asking the company to adopt a human rights policy in line with the UN's guiding principles but that vote did fail so our UCR still add. They're hoping that the more more noise they make the more reputational pressure they put on the companies will have some impact on the shares on the company's trajectory and maybe someday that will lead to a bigger change but sister. Judy says they're in it for the long haul we started with the issue of apartheid in South Africa and you know that was in nineteen seventy one and finally it was in nineteen ninety four when there were free elections so this issue of gun violence. We hope it's not that long but you know we're not going to go away away because we really believe that they have a critical role in this in solving this very the story's interesting because I think that when a lot of folks folks try to influence the way a company does business they think of maybe boycotting the product and showing they're not interested. This was totally different. These nuns actually bought shares in the company. They actually decided that by owning a part of the company that that was the approach that they would take instead yeah and and it's kind of in concert with this broader movement. I think this becomes more effective in in that broader context of people saying now that corporations have a bigger responsibility. It's not just to generate profits. It's also responsibility to the society in which they operate Mary Tiles. Thanks so much. Thank you this episode. The indicator was produced by Darius roffe on it was edited by Paddy Hirsch in fact check by Nadia. Lewis indicator is a production of NPR.

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