Investors criticise human rights performance of companies

Aviva Investors, Nordea, New York State Common Retirement Fund, Vermont Pension Investment Committee, APG Asset Management and Swedish National Pension Funds have signed a letter from 176 international investors representing over $4.5tr in assets under management demanding action on human rights from major companies by June 2020.

The latter comes as the latest Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) has been published, with Canon, Carlsberg, Starbucks, Gazprom, Ralph Lauren and Costco Wholesale all urged to take decisive action.

The letter, coordinated by the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, targets every company that scored zero on human rights due diligence in its 2019 ranking. These are checks that reasonable and prudent companies carry out to identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for how they address the most severe risks to people in connection with their business.

“Human rights issues present material risks to many companies, as well as a financial risk to their investors. The CHRB contains useful performance data and, whilst it was reassuring to see Adidas, Unilever and Inditex towards the top of the table, it was highly alarming that some of the largest brands in the world are governing human rights so poorly. We are now calling for prompt and concrete action from the laggards, including Arcelor Mittal, Carlsberg, Gazprom, Hon Hai, Macy’s, Prada and Starbucks. For our part, we will not hesitate to withdraw our support of these company boards at their AGMs if they do not resolve this critical situation as a matter of priority,” said Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors and chair of the CHRB Board.

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