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October 5, 2021, New York, New York – Fifteen members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) drew support from 43.9% of the shareholders of Smith & Wesson for a proposal that the gun manufacturer adopt a comprehensive human rights policy in light of rising gun violence in the United States.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters, represented by Sister Judy Byron, OP, were the primary filers of the proposal. Fourteen faith-based organizations from ICCR co-filed.
In a press release, ICCR noted that this amount of support from shareholders – compared to 39% support for a similar proposal in 2019 – “demonstrates shareholders’ mounting concern with the company’s lack of attention to the growing risks of gun violence.” The proposal calls on Smith & Wesson to include in the policy “a description of the processes the company will use to identify, assess, prevent, and mitigate adverse human rights impacts.”
“Undisputedly, something must be done about the misuse of guns in our country,” Sister Judy said in her September 27, 2021, Shareholder Statement. “As a leading firearms manufacturer we genuinely believe Smith & Wesson has the knowledge and the expertise to engineer the solutions we need to reduce gun violence and save lives.”
A consultant to the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board, Sister Judy went on to note that the intention of the proposal is not to put Smith & Wesson out of business or to abolish the Second Amendment. “We seek to make the business, the products, and the consumers who buy them, safer,” she said. “We seek – as everyone here must surely do – to save lives.”
The mining of metals results in significant changes in the environment. Mines can be as large as two miles wide by two miles long and ¾ mile deep, bringing about a significant change in the landscape. In addition, the mining process requires a great amount of water to separate minerals from the ore, leaving behind a large amount of waste rock with the consistency of sand. This material, referred to as “tailings,” is placed in a pond. The pond can be close to 1,000 feet wide and left for many years after a mine closes.
On January 25, 2019, in Brumadinho, Brazil, a tailings dam created by the mining company Vale collapsed, spilling 12 million cubic meters (more than 3.1 billion gallons) of tailings waste down the valley and causing the death of more than 270 people (see video of the collapse below, from the Wall Street Journal website).
Immediately, socially responsible investors met to determine a best step forward. They decided that some investors would engage Vale about the particular tailings dam breach. At the same time, the investors addressed the issue of the many mining companies that do not have good practice surrounding these dams.
The Church of England Pensions Board and Swedish National Pension Fund developed a sign-on letter asking mining companies to disclose details of their storage facilities. The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) joined these investors – representing more than $13.5 trillion in combined assets under management – to ask 726 of the largest publicly traded mining companies to disclose their tailings facilities. A review of the information submitted from the first group of dams shows some instability in 10% of the dams. This could lead to further disasters.
Photos of the Brumadinho mining disaster by Ibama on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
These investors, together with the UN environmental program, the International Council of Metals and Mining, and the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, formed a Global Tailings Review which will include communities on the ground to determine the best way forward toward a standard that will improve the management of these facilities. The draft standard is currently out for review by academics, communities, investors, and the public at large.
These steps cannot change the tragedy that occurred in January, nor the other 11 incidents that have occurred since 2010, but the investors hope to be a voice for change, calling for accountability going forward. These efforts aim to develop a better understanding of the social and environmental risks around tailings management and ensure that systems are in place to prevent future disasters and increase mining safety standards worldwide.
Portfolio Advisory Board, Adrian Dominican Sisters | 1257 E. Siena Heights Drive | Adrian, Michigan 49221
Phone: (517) 266-3523 | Email: