Written by Anthony Moujaes
The Board of Directors of United Church Funds (UCF) will continue to use its position as an investor to create constructive dialogue, promote shareholder action, positive investment and, as a last resort, divesting from companies engaged in issues that concern the United Church of Christ. The board announced the updated "Statement of Position Concerning the Use of Economic Leverage" at its board meeting in late October.
"As our statement notes, we believe we bear a spiritual and moral obligation to use our power as shareholders to actively engage corporate management in support of UCC values," said Donald G. Hart, president of UCF.
While UCF's new statement includes a specific reference to "the ongoing Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian Territories," UCF's board intends the updated statement to apply to almost all situations in which the use of economic leverage may be appropriate.
The statement updates a similar document approved in June 2005, just before a resolution was passed at General Synod that summer. The 2005 resolution, "Concerning Use of Economic Leverage in Promoting Peace in the Middle East," passed with a vote of 529 for, 168 against and 12 abstaining.
For more than 30 years, UCF has partnered with other denominations and faith-based organizations to extend its position as a corporate shareholder by seeking dialogue with corporate management on environmental, social and governance issues. A dialogue with the Hershey Company about the use of child labor in cocoa production produced a recent commitment from the chocolate maker to use only cocoa certified as sustainably sourced in its Bliss products, and in all of its chocolates by 2020. In situations that have needed more than dialogue, UCF has also co-signed shareholder resolutions — actions giving shareholders a "say on pay" for highly-compensated corporate executives. These strategies of constructive dialogue and shareholder action have been successful in creating corporate change.
Founded in 1909, United Church Funds is an affiliated ministry of the United Church of Christ. Based in New York City, UCF serves as the investment manager for nearly $700 million of endowment and other assets from more than 800 churches and ministries — including the historic endowments of the United Church of Christ — offering a family of responsible, professionally managed investment funds. For more information, visit www.unitedchurchfunds.org.