Faith-based Community Helps Change Business Practices

Corporations are capable of accomplishing great things in the world, but they must be held accountable as good social citizens, says Laura Berry, executive director of the Interfaith Coalition on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). Berry spoke to the Christian Church Foundation Board of Directors at their November meeting, sharing story after story of how corporations are evolving and responding to the concerns expressed by the faith-based community.

“The Christian Church Foundation is a full member of ICCR,” said Foundation President Gary W. Kidwell, “and I count this as one of our most important alliances. As a faith-based investor, the Foundation seeks justice by engaging with companies for responsible corporate behavior. Our coalition with other faith-based investors through ICCR, helps us maximize our impact.”

Berry outlined how ICCR – which represents more than 300 organizations with investments in excess of $100 billion – engages companies to create change, integrating social values into corporate and investor actions. “What is right also is good for business,” she said.

ICCR members include faith communities, asset management companies, labor unions, pension funds, non-profit agencies and college and university endowment funds.

 

Berry shared notable examples of positive impact:

  • In the area of human trafficking, ICCR works with companies in the hospitality, tourism and travel industry to offer staff training to help recognize situations in which human trafficking could be occurring. Many national hotel chains and airlines now train their workers to identify potential human trafficking situations.
  • Governance is key to any organization, and ICCR lobbies for corporations to have diverse boards, recognizing that differing voices are vital to corporate success.
  • ICCR, recognizing childhood obesity as a national epidemic, has worked with many fast-food companies to offer healthy options for children. McDonald’s, for example, makes apple slices the default for kids’ menu options instead of French fries.

“It is important,” said Foundation President Gary W. Kidwell, “for the Foundation’s partner investors to know that their voice of faith is being proclaimed through our work with ICCR.”

ICCR engages companies in discussions about issues that impact the environment and humanity. By sponsoring shareholder resolutions, voting proxies and participating in board-level meetings, ICCR works to help positively influence companies on questions of corporate social responsibility.

Engagement with companies fares much better than divestiture, Berry said. When faith-based groups divest of particular company stocks in protest, they lose any right to create change within the company. Holding investments in companies gives organizations a voice in the future of those corporations

“Being a faith-based investor is a long-term commitment that requires persistence and patience, and we believe we have an important role in bringing a sense of wholeness to our world,” Kidwell said.

The Foundation Board, meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, also honored the ministry of the Rev. Dr. W. Darwin Collins, who is retiring as vice president of the Foundation in February 2016.

 

The Board also:

  • Elected officers for 2016. They are Rod Witte, chair, from Denver, CO; Bob Williams; vice chair, from Dallas, TX; John May, secretary, from Wilmington, NC; and Gloria Feliciano, at large, from Totowa, NJ. The Investment Committee will be chaired by Todd Reed of Florence, KY, and the Budget & Program Committee will be chaired by Linda Hull of Jacksonville, FL.
  • Approved a $4.1 million budget for 2016 that is about $20,000 less than the 2015 budget.

The Board of Directors will hold their next meeting April 24-26, 2016, in Indianapolis.