One of the largest pension funds in the world, which says its invests “for the greater good,” has been asked to put pressure on Wal-Mart to amend its policies which promote urban sprawl, hurt local businesses, and allow abusive labor practices. Here are excerpts from a statement released by The Make TIAA-CREF Ethical Coalition to Sprawl-Busters: “TIAA-CREF has become one of the most important pension funds in the world, with stock and other assets of around $400 billion. Because many members of the academic community are the final owners of such stocks, we hope they wish to be better informed about the actions taken by corporations managed by the fund. It is most unfortunate that some companies in TIAA-CREF’s portfolios, in their pursuit of higher earnings, have been willing to market products or engage in activities that damage the health of consumers, compromise the quality of life for thousands, or promote the violation of human rights. There now exists a coalition of advocacy groups and concerned college personnel who, disturbed by such abuse, feel that it is possible to monitor that the money invested in the fund not be harmful to society. By offering this information, we are also hoping to recruit conscientious members of the academic community to participate in our effort. This would be to hold TIAA-CREF accountable for what it invests in and to use its historical and considerable shareholder advocacy skills to make individual companies behave ethically. In 2005, TIAA-CREF decided to apply its long history of corporate governance activism to issues of social responsibility. It is significant that doing so is also consistent with statements in its Policy Statement on Corporate Governance, its tag-line of “Financial Services for the Greater Good,” and its advertisements that the company is “mindful of social responsibilities.” The academic community is asking TIAA-CREF to hold to its words. Out of thousands TIAA-CREF invests in, our effort focuses on six particular companies and one financial institution. We direct ourselves to leaders in their industries so that our influence will be greater. We are requesting that the fund lobby for Wal-Mart to amend its policies promoting urban sprawl, hurting local businesses, and allowing abusive labor practices – and to close an illegally built warehouse in Mexico. It should be emphasized that we are also lobbying for TIAA-CREF investment in projects which raise the quality of life: community investment in low-income areas, and venture capital in socially and environmentally responsible products and services. Though we are making some progress with them on those concerns, we have met resistance there, as well.
Your calls and emails are needed now! Tell TIAA-CREF that if they remain invested in Coke, Wal-Mart, Costco, Nike, Altria/Philip Morris, and Chevron, that they should direct their proven record of shareholder advocacy to change these company’s irresponsible behavior. And ask them to add low-income area community investment and social venture capital to their socially responsible fund. If you are a TIAA-CREF participant, say that. Call and ask for CEO Herbert Allison at 800-842-2733; 212-490-9000 (leave message with an assistant), plus email him at [email protected]