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By Mary Minette
Mercy Investments Consultant
December 8, 2023, New York, New York – The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility’s (ICCR) annual Fall Conference took place October 3-5, 2023, in New York City and featured a variety of speakers and events that related to the work of the Adrian Dominican Sisters Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB).
The event also provided an opportunity to celebrate the contributions and retirements of Sister Judy Byron, OP, Director of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, and Pat Zerega, Senior Director of Shareholder Advocacy for Mercy Investment Services. Both have provided many years of staff support to the PAB.
Defending shareholder rights was a central topic of this fall’s ICCR gathering because of the growing number of bills introduced at the state and federal levels, aiming to prohibit investor consideration of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors. (For an explanation of ESG investment and anti-ESG bills, read this recent article.) With 2023 ESG shareholder proposals seeing decreased support, investors discussed potential actions, namely offering public support for the SEC’s forthcoming disclosure rules and engaging large asset managers on their voting practices.
Another session focused on providing investors with tools to engage asset managers on proxy voting. Following the recent rise of anti-ESG sentiment, asset managers significantly decreased their support for shareholder resolutions in their 2023 proxy voting. Asset managers oversee the holdings of investors, their clients, assuring that their decisions on behalf of the investors are made in good faith, aligned with the client’s responsible screening criteria.
ICCR members are urged to engage their asset managers on disclosure of voting policies, with progressive escalation steps for unresponsive managers, including switching assets to a competitor if the asset manager refuses to act.
In another emerging issue, a panel of presenters discussed the growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI), mindful of its impacts on society and democracy. The keynote speaker, Nathalie Maréchal from the Center for Democracy and Technology, explained that the most important decision is when not to use AI in modern work, citing the rise of disinformation, fraud, and misuse of data.
ICCR members continue to advance worker justice issues, and the conference included a session on advocating for companies to provide a living wage. The session’s panel members included an associate at a large retail chain who provided insight into the challenges facing workers, such as low wages, minimal benefits, and employer retaliation for employee criticism.
A researcher on the panel illustrated the negative impact that underpaying workers can have on long-term shareholder value, as studies show that a living wage supports employee retention and productivity.
The Racial Justice Investing Coalition moderated a session on racial justice-focused investing and its impact on fostering a stronger democracy. The session provided investors with a chance to learn about best practices from investors already working on this issue.
Another panel offered a presentation on pressing for corporate action on environmental justice and emphasized centering racial equity in climate work, engaging local communities in joint decision-making, and holding parent companies accountable for pollution from owned facilities.
In another session on company accountability, speakers addressed human rights due diligence (HRDD) and responsible contracting. Speakers explained the importance of supply chain contracts, highlighting that shifting risk onto a supplier is not the same as risk management. The panel members recommended that investors advocate for responsible contracts that feature shared commitments and prioritize human rights.
The ICCR conference provides a valuable opportunity to strategize with fellow faith-based investors for the current shareholder advocacy season.
Caption for feature photo at top: Attending the ICCR conference are, from left, Sister Susan Mika, OSB, Sister Ann Scholz, SSND, Sister Judy Byron, OP, Timnit Ghermay and Sister Marilín Llanes, OP.
Reprinted with the permission of the Latino Community Credit Union
Vicky Garcia, Senior Vice President of Latino Community Credit Union (LCCU) – a community investment of the Adrian Dominican Sisters – participated in a late January 2023, moderated conversation with Vice President Kamala Harris and Isabella Guzman, U.S. Small Business Administrator. The conversation was introduced by Marla Bilonick, President and CEO of the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB) and moderated by Jorge Buzos of Univision.
Marla framed the conversation perfectly, explaining the important relationship between small, Latino-owned businesses and the community lenders that are “entrenched in the communities they serve … and fill an important gap by providing loans and financial services that traditional banks are sometimes not able or willing to provide.” She concluded by celebrating LCCU as a “superstar in the community lending field.”
Vice President Harris said community lenders like LCCU “understand the capacity of the community. They understand the culture of the community, the mores of the community, what the community wants for itself.” These words beautifully describe LCCU, which has established a national model for financial inclusion and has provided $1.6 billion in loans to Latinos traditionally marginalized from economic opportunity.
“Vice President Harris is a proven champion of community lenders, including credit unions like LCCU,” Vicky said. “By taking the time to come here and meet our members face to face, the Vice President is recognizing their important contribution to the U.S. economy and LCCU’s role as a driver of economic opportunity and growth.”
Vice President Harris met several LCCU members who have used LCCU loans to start and grow their businesses, buy homes, and build generational wealth. Additionally, she and Administrator Guzman visited a local bakery owned by LCCU members.
Vice President Kamala Harris visits a bakery owned by members of the Latino Community Credit Union. (Photo courtesy of the Latino Community Credit Union)
The vice president was also on hand to celebrate the federal government’s investment in community lenders like LCCU. As part of the U.S. Treasury Department $9 billion Emergency Capital Investment Program (ECIP), LCCU received a $99 million, 30-year, low-interest loan from the U.S. Treasury Department.
The federal investment provides LCCU the equity to build its capital base dramatically and quickly expand its impactful, public-private partnership model. LCCU is now positioned to raise significantly more deposits from mission-aligned private sector partners – corporations, foundations, and health systems – and immediately deploy those deposits as life-changing loans to those who need them the most.
Over the 30-year term, LCCU expects to raise $700 million in private sector deposits, which in combination with member deposits, will allow for the union to make one million fair and affordable loans, for a total of $30 billion in financing, to its growing membership of Latinos in the Southeast.
Vice President Harris concluded by underscoring that LCCU’s “one million loans will have a profound exponential impact on the economic health and wellbeing of the community.”
Watch a video of the event below or on YouTube.
June 28, 2018, San Rafael, California – In a talk last month at the Dominican Sisters Center in San Rafael, Adrian Dominican Sister Corinne Florek, OP, spoke of the socially responsible investment of Congregations such as the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael. The San Rafael Dominicans are one of eight communities of women religious who invest through the Religious Communities Investment Fund (RCIF), directed by Sister Corinne. In her talk, Sister Corinne explained the social justice benefits of the RCIF, which invests in non-profit organizations that address the needs of low-income people. The Adrian Dominican Sisters perform a similar ministry of socially responsible investment through its Portfolio Advisory Board, of which Sister Corinne is a consultant.
Read the entire article by Christina Gray in the San Francisco Catholic.
Portfolio Advisory Board, Adrian Dominican Sisters | 1257 E. Siena Heights Drive | Adrian, Michigan 49221
Phone: (517) 266-3523 | Email: