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By Associate Dee Ann Joyner
Director, Portfolio Advisory Board
October 12, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – The Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) gathered via Zoom September 23-24, 2021, for its annual meeting. They welcomed new Board members, Carmen Mora and Joe Barker, who were both introduced on the PAB website last month. Elise García, OP, General Council liaison to the PAB, also attended her first meeting as a voting member following an amendment to the by-laws approved by the General Council in June.
The PAB also recommended to the General Council the appointment of Carla Mannings to an open position of the Board. The PAB recommended a change to the social impact environment policy to limit investments in any company receiving more than 3% of their revenues producing thermal coal or oil sands. The General Council approved both recommendations.
On Day 1 of the meeting, Judy Byron, OP, consultant on shareholder advocacy, facilitated a panel discussing pesticides and their impact on the environment. Margie Weber, a former PAB staff member and member of the Board, discussed the history of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ advocacy activities on pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). She emphasized the long, slow process of changing corporate practices, yet the process does result in important changes.
Caroline Boden, with Mercy Investment Services, discussed the work she has been doing with the Interfaith Coalition for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) with both food and beverage manufacturers and retailers. For example, the ICCR has gotten corporations to commit publicly to reduce their use of pesticides or at least to switch to less toxic treatments. She stressed the leverage these companies have on their supply chain and discussed success in dialogue with Campbell’s Soups and General Mills in reducing pesticide use on the ingredients in their products.
Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of the Congregation’s Office of Sustainability, discussed her office’s work on reducing pesticide use on the Motherhouse Campus. Her office ceased to use chemical-based pesticides that destroy the health of the soil and has transitioned to using neem oil to enhance fruit, berry, and nut tree growth. Neem oil only affects harmful insects, not pollinators.
In conclusion, the panel agreed on the need for a multifaceted approach to advocate consistently and continuously with companies to ensure their policies and practices reduce the use of harmful pesticides and to practice reducing our own personal use whenever and wherever possible.
Sister Judy and Pat Zerega, board consultant on shareholder advocacy from Mercy Investment Services, updated the Board on 2020-21 advocacy activities. On behalf of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, they engaged 43 companies on 65 engagement topics. The Adrian Dominican Sisters filed 17 shareholder resolutions and participated in 55 sign-on letters covering diverse topics. For example, a letter was sent to 21 food and beverage companies on issues of racial justice and food equity.
Pat and Sister Judy also presented the 2021-2022 advocacy plan which the PAB unanimously approved. The plan outlines strategies for PAB’s engagements with companies on issues such as the systemic inequities evident during COVID-19 and the quest for racial justice, as well as advocacy for policies that promote the rights of workers, food justice, and health equity. Investor statements and sign-on letters are often part of the advocacy process in these priority areas.
Day 2 focused on Community Investing. Corinne Florek, OP, Portfolio Manager for PAB, opened the meeting with a reflection excerpted from the social impact finance criteria developed by Richard Rohr’s Center for Contemplation and Action.
Sister Corinne provided historical background on the creation of the Religious Congregations Impact Fund (RCIF), for which she served as Founding Director until her retirement in 2020. Her successor, Sarah Geisler, provided an update on RCIF and its plans for future growth. The Adrian Dominican Sisters joined RCIF as a sponsor in 2017 and moved $1million from the PAB community investing portfolio to RCIF. RCIF and PAB often invest in the same non-profit organizations and collaborate in their approach to impact investing.
PAB then reviewed three loans presented by Sister Corinne. They approved the renewal of loans to Inclusiv, which provides capital to member credit unions serving low-income communities, and Fonkoze USA, a loan fund investing in small businesses in Haiti.
The Board also reviewed a new loan request from the Real People’s Fund, a collaboration among six non-profits serving the East Bay, California area. The purpose of the new Fund is to provide community capital funding to historically divested communities in the East Bay. The minimum loan term is seven years, which is longer that the Congregation’s policy of making loans for terms of one to five years. Because of its enthusiasm about the Real People’s Fund and its possible impact, the Board requested that the General Council amend the policy on the terms of loans so that they can consider approving a loan to the Real People’s Fund at a future meeting.
The last item on the agenda was a review of the community investing social impact criteria with a racial equity lens and discussion on possible changes. The Board postponed this discussion to the next meeting, giving them more time for an in-depth discussion of this important matter.
The next meeting of the PAB is scheduled for March 24-25, 2022.
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.”
July 2, 2021, Caldwell, New Jersey – Sister Patricia Daly, OP, a Caldwell, New Jersey, Dominican and a member of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB), was quoted in an article citing the recent victories of faith-based shareholder advocates in their work with three fossil fuel companies.
In shareholder advocacy, peace and justice advocates purchase stock in corporations and thus have a voice in the corporation’s policies affecting the environment or other matters of social justice. The shareholder advocates won the day in shareholder meetings of ExxonMobil, Chevron Corporation, and Royal Dutch Shell. “It’s like the Earth has moved. Corporate America has shifted,” Sister Pat was quoted as saying in an Earthbeat article by Brian Roewe.
Read the entire article, Bad Day for Big Oil is big climate win for religious shareholder advocates.
The Portfolio Advisory Board is pleased to welcome two new members for three-year terms beginning July, 1, 2021.
Joseph Barker II was recently appointed Executive Director of the Sr. Thea Bowman Black Catholic Educational Foundation. Prior to assuming this position, Joe held various teaching and administrative positions with Cristo Rey schools in Atlanta, GA and Charleston, SC. He has also worked in private industry and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in engineering from Florida A & M University.
Joe has a strong commitment to helping African-American youth succeed and volunteers his time with community organizations such as The Black Man Lab, Unbound International Outreach, and West Atlanta Charter School. He currently serves as chair of the board formation committee for Aquinas Center for Theology at Emory University. In nominating Joe for PAB, Mary Priniski, OP, commented “Joe is very energized by the work of PAB and shares a deep commitment to inclusion and racial justice. He is a dynamic leader and not afraid to state his commitments.”
Carmen Mora is Executive Director of Saginaw-Shiawassee Habitat for Humanity where she has worked since 2008. She has also held pastoral ministry roles with various parishes in the Saginaw diocese. She received a Bachelor’s Degree from Barry University in 1995 and a Master’s Degree from Loyola University in New Orleans in 2000.
Carmen’s life focus is to serve those at a disadvantage and give them a hand up. Her volunteer activities are consistent with her work life. She serves as a scholarship grant reviewer for Saginaw Community Foundation; has been president of the Mustard Seed Homeless Shelter; and served as a missionary to the Dominican Republic through Amor en Acción. In nominating Carmen for PAB, Marilín Llanes, OP, stated, “Carmen is a Cuban-American woman steeped in her Latinx roots growing up in Miami, Florida. She is committed to inclusion, equity, and racial justice and wants to be able to contribute her gifts to the work of the PAB.”
As Board members welcomed these two new members to PAB, they also shared their gratitude to Leslie Watson who has completed her term. Chair of PAB Marilín Llanes, OP, expressed the sincere appreciation of the entire Board for Leslie’s commitment to the work of PAB. “We are so grateful for Leslie’s willingness to share her knowledge and experience in community investing with the Board during the past three years. Her active participation has enriched our work and we value her many contributions.”
The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board works to invest Congregation funds into businesses and programs that align with their Vision and Enactments, which include an emphasis on sustainability. Because of this, they educate themselves and others on measures to assess how well companies are helping to reduce global CO2 emissions in order to reduce global warming.
You may have noticed that numerous companies have announced pledges to reach “net-zero” greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by mid-century. Companies in a variety of industries, ranging from Delta Airlines to Duke Energy and from Shell Oil to Coca-Cola, have made pledges in the past year. So, what does net-zero emissions mean, and why is this important?
A 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that for temperatures to stay “well below” 2 degrees with the possibility of staying within 1.5 degrees of warming, global emissions would need to reach “net zero” by mid-century. “Net zero” means that most human-caused emissions are zero and that any remaining emissions are offset by carbon removal through carbon capture and storage or “natural climate solutions” that absorb carbon, such as restoring forests.
With existing technologies, or even those in development, some industries can’t reach zero by 2050. One example is air travel. Until a non-emitting jet fuel or batteries light enough to operate a plane for long distances are available, planes will need to use fossil-based fuel to some degree.
Additionally, for most industries to reach zero, or net zero, by 2050, other industries will need to get to zero more quickly. Many industries will decarbonize by “going electric” (for instance, cars and trucks) and to make that possible, the electric utility sector MUST decarbonize very quickly.
As the result of efforts from investors around the globe, including the Climate Action 100+ initiative, companies in industries including oil and gas, utilities, transportation, banking, and food and beverages have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
More than half of the Climate Action target companies have made a net-zero pledge that covers their scope 1(direct) and scope 2 (purchased electricity) emissions. A quarter of the Climate Action companies have made pledges that also include scope 3 emissions, which are the emissions in their supply chains and the emissions from use of their products.
Not all company plans are fully developed. Some are just a target. Others include short- and medium-term goals and plans for how they plan to reach them. But this represents a huge step toward ensuring that 1.5 degrees of warming is attainable.
Investors must continue to ask companies for more details and to show action and not just words. The number of pledges will need to continue to grow, and the companies will need to have solid plans, good government policy, and perhaps most importantly, money behind them. Companies and government will also need to support a just transition that helps workers and communities move from fossil fuel jobs and tax revenues to new jobs and industries.
One important note: the energy transition will only happen if the materials to build it are available. Metals including lithium, nickel and cobalt are used in batteries; lightweight steel is needed for electric cars; plant biofuels are one option for replacing some of the jet fuel used in aviation. Investors need to make sure these supply chains, are environmentally sustainable and just. Net Zero is a great start, and progress that we can celebrate, but there’s still a lot to be done!
Mary Minette has served as Director of Shareholder Advocacy for Mercy Investment Services since 2016, focusing on climate change and environmental issues. Previously, she was Director of Environmental Education and Advocacy for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
August 20, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Cynthia Curry Crim was named Vice Chair of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB). In this position, she will be working on the PAB’s executive team with Associate Dee Joyner, Director of Resilient Communities for the Congregation, and Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, Chair.
Established by the Adrian Dominican Sisters more than 40 years ago, the PAB helps the Congregation to use its resources justly, in ways that resonate with its mission. The Corporate Responsibility aspect focuses on using dialogue and shareholder resolutions to keep corporations accountable in areas such as the environment, treatment of workers, and responsibility to local communities. The Community Investment aspect offers low-interest loans to community-based enterprises that serve communities and people in need.
Now in her second year as a PAB member, Cynthia is excited to be serving on the executive team as Vice Chair. The executive team is involved in behind-the-scenes work and strategic planning – “a lot of planning to make sure that each time the PAB meets, we have a productive meeting,” she said. “We’re just trying to make sure that the Board members have the right information, to make the meetings more engaging.”
Cynthia said serving on the PAB fits right in with her work experience. From about 1993 to 1998, she worked in Chicago as director of nonprofit organizations. “All my work centered on family and children, but I also realized you have to look at housing, education, and health,” she said. She wanted to change focus, “not to leave the nonprofit community but I really wanted to see a bigger part of the work.”
Cynthia then served as Associate Executive Director of the Steans Family Foundation in Chicago. The Executive Director was “totally committed to the community and really believed in engaging community residents about the decisions that were going on,” Cynthia said. She compared this work to the Congregation’s focus on helping to form resilient communities in specific geographic areas of the country.
Cynthia and her family moved to St. Louis in 2002. After working for Nonprofit Services Consortium, an intermediary that collaborates with local nonprofit organizations, Cynthia was hired 15 years ago by Dee Joyner to work at Commerce Bank, managing part of its corporate foundation and two family foundations.
Cynthia said Dee invited her to serve on the PAB. “I had known about her work with the Adrian Dominican Sisters while she was at Commerce,” Cynthia said. “She would talk about being on the PAB, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be asked [to serve on the Board].”
Working on the PAB has enhanced her knowledge. “What I have learned is that investment in the community can be direct or indirect,” she said. She sees the corporate responsibility aspect, and particularly shareholder advocacy, as having an indirect but profound effect on the community.
“How many people in underserved communities have any idea of the impact that corporations have?” she asked. “So the work that the Sisters are doing – advocating that corporations look at what they’re doing in terms of how they’re polluting the environment – has a major impact on those who have no voice. That is a powerful tool to use.”
Cynthia sees the work of community investment as being directly involved in the local communities. “I like that during this time of COVID and Black Lives Matter, I have really seen in our last meeting this commitment to walk the talk and try as best as possible to make a difference in the communities, making sure that people who are already struggling can somehow get some relief,” she said. “To be part of this is pretty special.”
The Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB), staff, and consultants warmly welcome their newest Board member, Sister Patricia Daly, OP, a Dominican Sister of Caldwell, New Jersey.
The PAB monitors the Adrian Dominican Congregation's investments and engages in shareholder activity on matters of justice. The PAB also makes low-interest loans to non-profit community organizations that benefit low-income people and underserved communities.
Sister Pat brings 40 years of experience to the PAB’s mission of corporate responsibility and socially responsible investing. She recently concluded her 24-year tenure as Executive Director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investing, now Investor Advocates for Social Justice.
The Tri-State Coalition was an organization of 40 Catholic dioceses and congregations of women and men religious in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, primarily in the New York Metropolitan area. During her tenure, Sister Pat was involved in advocating with corporations for human rights, labor rights, ecological concerns, equality, and international debt and capital flows. In addition, she played a role in persuading U.S. corporations to address global climate change as one of their priorities. Upon leaving her position with the Tri-State Coalition, Sister Pat was recognized for her “leadership, determination, and persistence” in the corporate responsibility ministry.
Sister Pat worked with Sisters from a coalition of U.S. women’s Dominican congregations to launch the Climate Finance Investment products that aim to implement the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. She serves on the advisory boards of Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, the climate science arm of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and Jana Partners, the first hedge fund to implement corporate engagement and socially responsible principles.
She is the recipient of the 2014 Joan Bavaria Award presented by Ceres and Trillium Asset Management and the 2017 Legacy Award presented by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. In addition, Sister Pat holds honorary doctorates from William Paterson University, Wayne, New Jersey and Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Sister Pat joins the dedicated members, staff, and consultants of the Portfolio Advisory Board: Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, Chair; Lloyd Van Bylevelt, Vice Chair and Adrian Dominican Associate; Board members Cynthia Curry Crim, Sister Mary Priniski, OP, PhD, and Leslie Watson; Sister Elise García, OP, General Council Liaison; Kristine Cooper, Office Manager; Dee Joyner, Adrian Dominican Associate and Director of the Congregation’s Office of Resilient Communities; and Pat Zerega, Sister Judy Byron, OP, and Sister Corinne Florek, OP, consultants. Their professional backgrounds can be found on the Board and Staff page of the PAB website.
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.
May 4, 2018, Prescott, Arizona – Sister Judy Byron, OP, and other faith-based investors, have struggled for years to end the mass shootings and other forms of gun violence brought on by easy access to guns. Now, Sister Judy – Director of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment and consultant for the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board – will continue that struggle at the May 9 annual meeting of Sturm Ruger & Company. Stockholders will vote on a resolution written by faith-based investors to request that the weapons company be upfront about its efforts to lessen gun violence.
Read more about the efforts of Sister Judy and other faith-based investors in this article by Claudia Koerner on BuzzFeed News.
By Sister Judy Byron, OP
Director of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment
Miriam Webster defines a tipping point as “the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place.” Are we at a tipping point on the issue of guns in the United States? With each passing day, the evidence would seem to be a resounding “Yes!”
On March 29, faith based investors released an Investor Statement on Gun Violence, endorsed by more than 140 investors representing $634 billion in assets, calling on gun manufacturers, retailers, and distributors, as well as companies with financial ties to these industries, to “review their operations, supply chains and policies and take meaningful action on this public safety concern.”
The members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and the Adrian Dominican Sisters have a long history of promoting peace through shareholder advocacy. We began in 1971 by addressing apartheid in South Africa, and continued by working with weapons’ manufacturers to use ethical criteria for sales to foreign governments and by leading an investor campaign against graphic violence in video games.
Responding to the increasing number of incidents of gun-related violence year after year, I convened my colleagues at ICCR in 2016 to address gun manufacturers and retailers on their role in the gun violence epidemic. As shareholders in American Outdoor Brands, Sturm Ruger and Dick’s Sporting Goods, we quietly worked on letters and resolutions, and then the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School occurred on February 14. Four days later, ICCR shareholders were swept up into the activist movement that has become known as #NeverAgain. Our children are leading us to end gun violence in our country, to ensure safety in their schools, neighborhoods, homes, and churches.
Adam Kanzer, of Domini Impact Investments, had the last word in the ICCR Press Release announcing our Investor Statement on Gun Violence, “The bravery and eloquence of the Parkland students has brought us to a tipping point on this issue. Today, we are asking investors and corporations large and small to take a hard look at their connections to gun violence and do what they can to restore peace and safety to our communities. We hope that our recommendations will serve as a blueprint for these actions.”
It is our hope that you are finding yourself asking, “What can I do as an individual to end gun violence in our country?” We leave you with a few suggestions:
Portfolio Advisory Board, Adrian Dominican Sisters | 1257 E. Siena Heights Drive | Adrian, Michigan 49221
Phone: (517) 266-3523 | Email: