April 7, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Shareholders in public corporations have a unique privilege, opportunity, and responsibility: to use their proxy ballots to shape the values and decisions of those corporations.
That was the message of Adrian Dominican Sister Corinne Florek, OP, Executive Director of the Religious Communities Investment Fund, in a live-streamed April 3 talk, “How One Checkmark Can Influence Corporate Policy.” Her address was given in the auditorium of Weber Retreat and Conference Center on the Motherhouse campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
She noted the strong economic influence that corporations carry: of the 150 largest economic entities, she said, 87 are corporations. Some 91 million U.S. adults own some stock, she noted, adding that most throw away or recycle their proxy votes rather than voicing their values.
“If you own shares, you have a voice – and I’m here today to ask you to use your influence to improve corporate decision-making and creating change in the issues you care about,” Sister Corinne said. “After all, investments are your money and should be working for you.”
Sister Corinne encouraged individual shareholders to consider the values they support and the industries they would like to avoid supporting, and to ask their financial advisers to craft a portfolio that reflects these choices. Then, as individual investors, they have the right to guide the corporation’s decisions through their proxy vote.
“Proxy is just another name for a ballot that contains resolutions that are up for a vote,” Sister Corrine explained, adding that proxies also include a slate of candidates running to serve on the corporation’s Board of Directors. Resolutions can deal with issues such as environmental impacts and disclosure of the corporation’s lobbying expenses and treatment of workers.
If shareholder resolutions receive support of 3 percent of the proxy voters, the corporation will remain in dialogue about those issues. “The proxy voting is the incentive for the corporation to stay in the dialogue,” Sister Corinne explained. When shareholders don’t vote at all, their votes are considered to be in favor of the view of the corporation’s management rather than of shareholders who are trying to make changes, she added.
Using proxy voting to help bring more justice into the economy is not a new practice. Sister Corinne noted that the Adrian Dominican Sisters have been involved in economic justice through corporate responsibility for more than 40 years through the Congregation’s Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB). The Congregation is also working with hundreds of other faith-based organizations, members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), to ensure that the corporate world reflects values of justice, care for the environment, and concern for workers and low-income people.
A panel of Adrian Dominican Sisters spoke on their own experience of voting proxies for the Congregation. Sisters Frances Lombaer, OP, Joan Marconi, OP, and Thérèse Haggerty, OP, encouraged listeners to vote their proxies, noting that the process becomes easier with practice. “We do proxy voting because we want to support the choices that the Congregation makes through the PAB, our Portfolio Advisory Board, Sister Thérèse said. “These choices are in line with our vision statements.”
Sister Corinne concluded her talk by giving investors some ideas on how they can both diversify their portfolio and make a difference in the world.
“Please join us in this effort to create more justice in our economy,” Sister Corinne concluded.
To watch her presentation, click here.
By Sister Mary Jean Williams, OP
Director of Mission Integration, Regina Dominican High School
April 3, 2017 – Thanks to a mini-grant for National Catholic Sisters Week, four Regina Dominican High School freshmen traveled from Wilmette, Illinois, to provide a day of service for the Adrian Dominican Sisters at the Dominican Life Center. Regina Dominican was founded and is sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
The students’ weekend trip to the Motherhouse included several events. The students gathered after their arrival on Friday evening with the Dominican Young Adults (DYA) of Siena Heights University. The DYA described the experience and advantage of attending a Dominican university, the culture and community spirit, and ways of living the Dominican pillar of service.
Early Saturday, Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Sisters from A Nun’s Life arrived to videotape the girls and four Sisters who had ministered at Regina Dominican High School. During the interviews, students asked questions about religious life and what each Sister enjoyed doing in her free time.
“We had a delightful time with you, the students and the Sisters, this past Saturday in Adrian,” said Sister Maxine Kollasch, IHM, co-founder of A Nun’s Life Ministry. “We continue to be deeply impressed by the young women’s composure and their understanding of vocation and discernment.”
In the interviews, the Sisters in turn asked the girls about service projects, if they had ever thought about being a Sister, and why they chose to attend Regina Dominican.
Before lunch, the Sisters who had ministered at Regina Dominican met with the Reginites and related favorite memories and funny stories. One of the students mentioned that she could identify with the Dominican roots of Regina Dominican because she met a Sister who was at the school when it first opened.
After lunch, many of the Sisters came to the Rose Room to play games, enjoy an ice cream social, and have their wheel chairs washed. As the students escorted Sisters back to their rooms, they took the opportunity to visit some of the Sisters who couldn’t attend the activities and to learn about their call to religious life. The students then spent their free time visiting the Sisters and exchanging stories.
Saturday evening, the group reflected on their day of service and their many exciting and positive experiences. They realized that even though some Sisters were physically unable to participate in the activities, they are happy, have good caregivers, spent their life in ministry for love of God, and now have the opportunity to spend more time in prayer. The students plan to share their experiences at school during Dominican Week in April.
On Sunday morning, members of the General Council and other Sisters met the students for breakfast. The students then assisted in setting up St. Catherine Chapel for Mass. The students took the opportunity before and after Mass to say good-bye to the Sisters they had visited.
“It was so pleasant meeting the young women from Regina Dominican,” Sister Helen Therese Mayer, OP, wrote in an email. “You are to be congratulated. The students certainly are self-possessed for their age. ... Thanks for bringing them to visit. Perhaps one or two, of them will come see Adrian again.”