What's Happening


Two participants in the Environmental Leadership Experience release fish into the pond on the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse grounds.

May 16, 2024, Adrian, Michigan – To the excitement and delight of onlookers, new residents were gently released into the pond on the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse campus on May 16, 2024, by participants of the Congregation’s Annual Environmental Leadership Experience (ELE). The new residents are 400 hybrid bluegills, 100 largemouth bass, and 20 pounds of fathead minnows.  

During the ELE, students from Barry University in Miami, Florida, and Siena Heights University in Adrian – both sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters – spend a week at the Motherhouse, working in the permaculture site and learning about the environment and practical ways to make Earth more sustainable.

The delivery of the fish was the latest in recent efforts to upgrade the pond to bring greater biodiversity to the campus grounds. “This has been a long time coming,” said Joel Henricks, Executive Director of Property Operations for the Adrian Dominican Sisters. 

Originally, Joel said, the pond was meant to be a stormwater retention basin. “It collects surface stormwater from our campus and [Siena Heights] University, collects it in one place, and then slowly relinquishes the water back into the system so there’s not a large outrush or flooding,” he explained.

But the pond was becoming murky and swampy. A civil engineering group recommended that it be made deeper and larger while retaining its original purpose. In 2020, the pond was expanded to three-quarters of an acre, with a depth of 17 feet at its center. “As part of the final step of the pond process, we did aquatic plantings, and the final process would have been the fish,” Joel explained.  

But because of shortages of fish during the pandemic and afterward, the pond could not be stocked until this year. The date in May was chosen to coincide with the Congregation’s annual Environmental Leadership Experience, in which 10 students from Barry University in Miami and Siena Heights University in Adrian participated. Both universities are sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. 

The fish are a complementary part of the campus ecosystem, Joel said. “The bass is a predator, the bluegill is a semi-predator, and the minnows are in it for the food chain,” to be food for the other fish. “We didn’t want to have to feed the fish,” he said. “We wanted to set up an ecosystem that’s well-balanced and maintains its levels with minimum interaction from us.”

But finding that balance can be difficult and involves several factors, such as the size of the fish. Bass and bluegills ordered range in size from 4 to 6 inches, and the minnows are about 1 to 2 inches long. Bass are “voracious feeders and will eat everything in the pond” if they’re much larger than the bluefish, he said.

He also hopes to maintain the balance between the number of fish that are eaten or otherwise die and the number that are added through breeding. While the greater depth of the pond ensures that not all of the water freezes in the winter, not all of the fish will survive. “There’s always a mortality rate,” Joel said. “Hopefully the birth rate will match the death rate.” 

The benefits of the new fish will extend beyond the health of the pond. The fish will bring greater biodiversity to the area, Joel explained. “We’ll attract hundreds of winged predators,” such as eagles, hawks, and ospreys – along with the frogs, turtles, and geese that already enjoy life on the pond. “We’ll see an increase in raccoons and possums looking for an easy meal,” he added. 

Brad Frank, Director of the Office of Sustainability for the Adrian Dominican Sisters, added that because they are predators, the fish will help to control the population of invertebrates that also call the pond home. These include diving beetles, dragonflies, damselflies, mosquitoes, and midges. 

A boy about 13 years old with his back to the camera wearing a pink T-shirt, blue jeans, and flip-flops works on the wheel of a car with a set of socket wrenches on the ground.

By Caroline Boden
Director of Shareholder Advocacy, Mercy Investment Services

In early 2023, The New York Times reported on the use of illegal child labor, mostly unaccompanied migrant children, in the United States. These children were illegally employed by suppliers for some of the biggest U.S. companies, including in factories producing Cheerios for General Mills, dinner rolls sold at Walmart and Target, auto parts for Ford and GM, and cleaning meat processing plants that supply JBS, Tyson, and others. Since then, additional investigative reports may have exposed child labor violations in the restaurant, construction, and other sectors in the United States.

As minors, and especially as unaccompanied migrants, these children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Although the children weren’t employed directly by these major brands, their illegal employment by the suppliers violates these companies’ human rights policies and supplier codes of conduct, as well as U.S. child labor laws. Additionally, the principle of human rights due diligence outlines the responsibility of all actors within a value chain to identify, address, and remediate any potential or actual human rights violations.

Following the reporting, responsible investors and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) reached out to several of the named companies, including Target, Tyson, and Walmart, to understand how they were addressing the issue and engaging with the violating suppliers to prevent further harm. 

These conversations showed that most companies were surprised, as suppliers in  North America have generally been perceived as low risk for human rights violations. Most companies shared that they were investigating the violating suppliers and working to strengthen recruiting and hiring practices; however, public disclosure of companies’ efforts to address the violations and remediate the harm caused to the children is lacking.

As part of our shareholder advocacy work, the Adrian Dominican Sisters Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) is joining other investors and NGO partners to ask these companies to conduct human rights impact assessments for the region, especially given the high use of migrant labor in the United States. 

The PAB joined other Walmart shareholders in filing a shareholder proposal for the 2024 proxy season that addresses the child labor issue and requests the company conduct a human rights impact assessment. An ICCR partner filed a proposal asking Tyson to commission an independent report evaluating the effectiveness of their policies and practices to prevent illegal child labor throughout the company’s value chain. The proposal received 12.1% of the shareholder vote in favor.

Unfortunately, one of the responses to the child labor violations has been an effort in many states to roll back child labor protections, such as lowering the eligible age to work, allowing minors to work in hazardous work environments, and extending the number of hours that minors can work. As of February 2024, 28 states had introduced bills to weaken child labor laws, with 12 states enacting such legislation.




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