July 27, 2017, New York, New York – American Airlines adopted the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism (The Code), committing to taking steps to prevent the human trafficking of children.
The management of American Airlines took this important step after five years of engagement and dialogue on the issue. Pat Zerega, of Mercy Investment Services, took on the role of lead negotiator and the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) played a supporting role.
“The agreement reinforces that, with shareholder advocacy work, persistence and patience with respectful dialogue can result in a very positive result,” said Kathleen Woods, Chair of the PAB’s Corporate Responsibility Committee. “We’re rejoicing as part of a collective whole.”
The Code of Conduct was developed by a coalition of advocates for children who worked together to End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT). Today, ECPAT is a network of 98 civil society organizations in 88 countries, working to protect children from sexual exploitation.
In signing ECPAT’s code, American Airlines – along with other travel-related organizations – agrees to train its employees on how to detect possible cases of human trafficking; report suspected cases to authorities; and provide educational materials to passengers, emphasizing that the exploitation of children is never acceptable. American Airlines joins Delta as the only U.S. air carriers to sign the code.
On its website, ECPAT notes that an estimated 150 million girls and 73 million boys are victims of sexual exploitation; millions are bought and sold for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Signatories to the code commit to enacting responsible policies to protect children who might be exploited through the travel and tourism industries.
“If properly trained to spot this crime, employees in the transportation industry can be on the front lines of the fight to end human trafficking,” Pat Zerega said. “In formally adopting the ECPAT Code, American has acknowledged its corporate responsibility to protect human rights in its business operations and, more specifically the power it has as a change agent on trafficking.”
The Adrian Dominican Sisters, with the 2004 vision to “seek truth, make peace, reverence life,” has long worked for an end of human trafficking and the healing of its victims. The Congregation passed in 2008 a corporate stance to combat human trafficking. Adrian Crossroads Mission Chapter, based in Adrian, was instrumental in founding a task force to work against human trafficking, now part of the Southeast Michigan Regional Taskforce.
April 7, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Shareholders in public corporations have a unique privilege, opportunity, and responsibility: to use their proxy ballots to shape the values and decisions of those corporations.
That was the message of Adrian Dominican Sister Corinne Florek, OP, Executive Director of the Religious Communities Investment Fund, in a live-streamed April 3 talk, “How One Checkmark Can Influence Corporate Policy.” Her address was given in the auditorium of Weber Retreat and Conference Center on the Motherhouse campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
She noted the strong economic influence that corporations carry: of the 150 largest economic entities, she said, 87 are corporations. Some 91 million U.S. adults own some stock, she noted, adding that most throw away or recycle their proxy votes rather than voicing their values.
“If you own shares, you have a voice – and I’m here today to ask you to use your influence to improve corporate decision-making and creating change in the issues you care about,” Sister Corinne said. “After all, investments are your money and should be working for you.”
Sister Corinne encouraged individual shareholders to consider the values they support and the industries they would like to avoid supporting, and to ask their financial advisers to craft a portfolio that reflects these choices. Then, as individual investors, they have the right to guide the corporation’s decisions through their proxy vote.
“Proxy is just another name for a ballot that contains resolutions that are up for a vote,” Sister Corrine explained, adding that proxies also include a slate of candidates running to serve on the corporation’s Board of Directors. Resolutions can deal with issues such as environmental impacts and disclosure of the corporation’s lobbying expenses and treatment of workers.
If shareholder resolutions receive support of 3 percent of the proxy voters, the corporation will remain in dialogue about those issues. “The proxy voting is the incentive for the corporation to stay in the dialogue,” Sister Corinne explained. When shareholders don’t vote at all, their votes are considered to be in favor of the view of the corporation’s management rather than of shareholders who are trying to make changes, she added.
Using proxy voting to help bring more justice into the economy is not a new practice. Sister Corinne noted that the Adrian Dominican Sisters have been involved in economic justice through corporate responsibility for more than 40 years through the Congregation’s Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB). The Congregation is also working with hundreds of other faith-based organizations, members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), to ensure that the corporate world reflects values of justice, care for the environment, and concern for workers and low-income people.
A panel of Adrian Dominican Sisters spoke on their own experience of voting proxies for the Congregation. Sisters Frances Lombaer, OP, Joan Marconi, OP, and Thérèse Haggerty, OP, encouraged listeners to vote their proxies, noting that the process becomes easier with practice. “We do proxy voting because we want to support the choices that the Congregation makes through the PAB, our Portfolio Advisory Board, Sister Thérèse said. “These choices are in line with our vision statements.”
Sister Corinne concluded her talk by giving investors some ideas on how they can both diversify their portfolio and make a difference in the world.
“Please join us in this effort to create more justice in our economy,” Sister Corinne concluded.
To watch her presentation, click here.