ECCR welcomes Labour’s commitment to Tax Justice

ECCR, as a founder member of Church Action on Tax Justice (CAT), has joined with other members of the coalition in welcoming Labour’s commitment to tax justice made by John McDonnell at the Labour Party Conference, and his intention to bring together “institutions from churches to trade unions and pensions funds” to launch a shareholder campaign demanding that companies sign up to the Fair Tax Mark standards.

ECCR believes, along with other member of CAT, that institutional shareholders, and in particular the Churches, should encourage companies to sign up to the Fair Tax Mark, so demonstrating transparently that they pay their fair share of taxes.

ECCR allies itself with Christian Aid, another founding member of CAT, in their support for this campaign.

ECCR notes the contribution that has already been made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in both his promotion of the Report from the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice, of which he was a member, and his speech to the TUC Conference in which he said that paying tax is part of our commitment to our shared humanity, to solidarity and justice.

CHURCH ACTION ON TAX JUSTICE

CAT has already been in touch with church shareholders raising this question, and notes that the Methodist Central Finance Board recently adopted a Tax policy. This includes questions to be asked of companies about their tax affairs and we urge the Church Investors Group to address this matter with urgency, using these questions with companies such as Amazon in which some hold shares. CAT regards the distinction between tax avoidance and evasion which companies often cite as being a false one, tax is a moral issue and all companies should pay their fair share, not the least they think they can legally get away with.

CHRISTIAN AID

Christian Aid has welcomed the announcement by John McDonnell at the Labour Party Conference of his intention to bring together “institutions from churches to trade unions and pensions funds” to launch a shareholder campaign demanding that companies sign up to the Fair Tax Mark standards. Toby Quantrill, Global lead on Economic Justice at Christian Aid said: “Companies and politicians of all stripes have more to do to win public trust that they are serious about making sure every business pays their taxes. “Shareholder pressure is one key way of bringing pressure onto companies to increase their transparency and demonstrate that they pay their fair share of taxes. Any shareholder with a conscience needs to be reassured that the companies they invest in are operating ethically. “The Fair Tax Mark requires multinational companies to report publicly on the business they do, the profits they make and the taxes they pay in every country where they operate. Providing this information is of vital public interest so that citizens of every country can understand whether these global companies are making a fair contribution back into the societies the are working in and profiting from.” Christian Aid has been actively campaigning for tax justice for over a decade. When companies find ways to dodge their taxes they reduce the amount available to governments to spend on key services such as health, education and security. Developing countries are the most vulnerable to this kind of behaviour, losing an estimated $100 – 300 billion every year.

IPPR report on Economic Justice

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for a fundamental rethink of how the economy works, including more public spending and higher taxes on technology giants and the wealthy.

Address by Justin Welby to the Trades Union Conference, Sept 2018

“Not paying taxes speaks of the absence of commitment to our shared humanity, to solidarity and justice.

“If you earn money from a community, you should pay your share of tax to that community.

“I was in business, and I know that, within limits, it’s right and proper for people to arrange their tax affairs, and for companies to do so.

“But when vast companies like Amazon, and other online traders, the new industries, can get away with paying almost nothing in tax, there is something wrong with the tax system.

“They don’t pay a real living wage, so the taxpayer must support their workers with benefits.

“And having leached off the taxpayer once they don’t pay for our defence, for security, for stability, for justice, for health, for equality, for education.

“Then they complain of an undertrained workforce, from the education they have not paid for, and pay almost nothing for apprenticeships. Those are only a fraction of the costs of aggressive tax management.”

 

ECCR writes to FCO expressing concern over mining deaths in South Africa

ECCR has written to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs asking for her Majesty’s Government to intervene over the desperate situation around the Marikana mine.

We join with our fellow members of the London Mining Network to reiterate the following requests from Bishop Jo that Lonmin should:

• Make a public apology to South Africa and to the victims of the Massacre, (families of the deceased, the injured and the arrested) of August 2012.
• From the sale proceeds, pay reparations to the affected parties, including all dependents of the deceased mineworkers and the injured and arrested workers who survived the Massacre
• Reparations should recognise the psychological damage and/or emotional trauma for those who witnessed the arrests, injuries and deaths that took place during the massacre
• Support calls for the miners who are in prison as a result of the massacre to be released, and for police officers and intellectual authors (i.e. politicians) of the Massacre to be prosecuted.
• Conduct full and proper consultation with all affected parties regarding the proposed
commemorative monument.
• Use sales proceeds to take responsibility for the repair of the environmental destruction caused by the mine to date, and ensure that people in the communities around the mine have sufficient water, proper sanitation and electricity
• With its successors in title fully comply with its current obligations under its Social and Labour Plan (SLP), including the development of 2638 (rental and ownership) accommodation units and 6000 apartments and ensure that these are genuinely affordable for mineworkers and the community,
within the stipulated time-frames.
• Add its voice to those calling for the review of the Farlam commission and actually finance the legal process.
• Stop using the excuse that it is now insolvent. Huge profits have been extracted over the years and shareholders must accept their responsibilities. If the company is sold, the new ownership must take responsibility for the massacre and reparations for the massacre, for providing housing and livelihoods and the other promises made.
• Guarantee livelihoods for the workers if a takeover by Sibanye-Stillwater occurs.
• Assist with financing sustainable developmental projects, with independent problem-solving mechanisms developed by the Benchmarks Foundation and counselling but not limited to Sikhala Sonke.
• Enter in to a covenant with specific time-frames between the company and the entire mining community, not only with investors.

Read our letter here.

Read Bishop Jo’s letter here.

ECCR writes to Honda regarding its franchise with a company operating in an Israeli settlement

ECCR has written to Honda to express our concern over the franchise agreement which Honda has made with Mayer Cars and Trucks. The Palestinian NGO Al-Haq claims that Mayer operates a garage in a settlement near Jerusalem, and is also involved in manufacturing armoured buses that are used to transport settlers to and from Israeli settlements.

Read our letter here.

ECCR writes to Shell regarding charges of bribery in the Niger Delta

Read ECCR letter from March 2018 here.
Read ECCR letter from April 2017 here.

On the 5th March 2018 an unprecedented bribery trial began against oil giants Royal Dutch Shell and Eni, together with some of their most senior executives including current Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi and Shell’s former head of Upstream International Malcolm Brinded. No company the size of Shell or a sitting CEO of an oil major have ever stood trial for bribery before.

The case brought by the Milan Public Prosecutor alleges that $520 million from the 2011 deal for one of Nigeria’s most promising oil blocks, known as OPL 245, was converted into cash and intended to be paid to Nigerian government officials. The prosecutor further alleges that money was also channelled to Eni and Shell executives with $50 million in cash delivered to the home of Eni’s current Chief Operations and Technology Officer Roberto Casula.

The next hearing in the trial is scheduled for the 14th of May. Both companies have denied wrongdoing.

 

ECCR welcomes common voting policy of Church Investors Group

 The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) has welcomed the announcement from the Church Investors Group regarding their updated common voting policy to be applied at all investee company AGMs in 2017.   The policy will further amplify the Churches’ voice on key issues such as the structure, independence and diversity of company boards, the independence of auditors, executive remuneration and wider engagement concerns. (https://churchinvestorsgroup.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/public/CIG-Proxy-Voting-Press-Release-Feb-2017.pdf)
 
In an associated move, ECCR has made a detailed submission to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the Government’s Green Paper on “Corporate Governance Reform”.   It calls for company boards and fund managers to adopt a culture of integrity and stewardship designed to enhance the trust of all stakeholders in the company’s activities, highlighting the rights of shareholders with regard to executive pay and performance, the need for clearer systems to monitor environmental and social impacts, the role of Remuneration Committees, and for Boards to take more direct responsibility for a company’s behaviour in host countries.
 
ECCR Chair, Christopher Stockwell, said “Boards have a direct responsibility for the performance and profitability of their own company, but it does not stop there.  They are part of the wider social network which should be concerned for the common good, and their stakeholders go beyond shareholders to include workers here and, for companies making profit overseas, vulnerable communities”.
 
The ECCR submission will shortly appear on the website – http://www.eccr.org.uk/
 
A full copy can be requested from john.arnold@eccr.org.uk, 07880 437131 to whom other questions arising from this Press Release should be addressed.
 
 
Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) is a church-based investor coalition and membership organisation, has been established over 27 years and leads and collaborates with others in advocacy and awareness-raising on business issues related to human rights, economic justice and environmental stewardship. www.eccr.org.uk
 
 

 

ECCR calls Lonmin to account over Marikana

On Thursday, 26th January, ECCR joined with Bishop Jo Seoka, the former Anglican Bishop of Pretoria, from the Bench Marks Foundation, the Marikana Miners Solidarity Group, , USPG, the London Mining Network, Amnesty International UK and Plough Back the Fruits outside Haberdashers Hall in London, prior to the Lonmin AGM, to pay sombre tribute to the 34 mine workers killed by South African police in August 2012 in the Marikana platinum mine massacre. The groups were seeking to inform shareholders about, and to hold Lonmin to account for, the delayed progress in putting in place fair compensation for the widows, orphans and injured survivors in addition to improved conditions for the mine workers and their families.

The group was lobbying Lonmin about:

  • Compensating the widows, orphans and injured survivors, which Bench Marks Foundation argues should be in the region of 20 years’ wages that workers would have earned had they not been killed or critically injured during the massacre;
  • Erecting an appropriate Memorial at the Mine to commemorate those who died;
  • Comprehensively address the housing needs of workers, 33 000 of whom live in informal housing without access to electricity, basic sanitation services or running water; and
  • Implementing a living wage for mine workers of R12 500 per month.

Bishop Seoka said: “My attendance at Lonmin AGM is to expose the lie that Lonmin has fulfilled its obligations of meeting workers’ housing needs, improving their living conditions, or implementing a living wage.

ECCR & USPG are planning to work more closely on a joint advocacy project in 2017 in relation to the mining sector.

The photo below shows, left to right, Bishop Jo Seoka (Chair of the Bench Marks Foundation), John Arnold (Executive Director, ECCR), Bishop Michael Doe (Vice-chair & trustee of ECCR) and Rachel Parry (Director for Global Relations USPG).

 

The Bishop of Oxford’s Case

The Bishop of Oxford’s case of 1991 effectively launched CEIG. It formed the basis of much of the original thinking behind ethical investment in the Church and has been developed extensively since. The Bishop of Oxford and CEIG members argued in the High Court that, in keeping with the Church’s mission, the Church Commissioners should not invest in ethically questionable activities such as businesses operating under the apartheid regime in South Africa. The case led to a clarification of Charity Commission guidance on ethical investment for charities.

The text of the High Court judgement is available here: Bishop_of_Oxford’s_case_1991

Chair of ECCR writes about shareholder empowerment

Chair of ECCR, Bishop Michael Doe, wrote to all three leaders of the UK political parties prior to the 2015 elections. He asked:

  • What proposals the parties have for facilitating greater shareholder involvement with their own investments;
  • Where investments continue to be pooled (pension funds, investment trust, life funds, OEICs), what steps would the parties take to ensure fund managers kept companies ethical standards under review, and take account of them in evaluating the long-term performance of investments?
  • How do the parties envisage fund managers could report to their fund providers about such dialogues?

Read the letter: ECCR letter to David Cameron 200115

ECCR co-files shareholder resolutions at BP and Shell

ECCR has joined the shareholder resolutions that have successfully been filed at BP and Shell by the Church Investors Group (CIG). These will now feature on the ballot papers for both companies’ AGMs later this year. The resolutions are designed to be stretching for the companies and are intended to help manage the risks and opportunities that the transition to a low carbon economy will pose to their investment value. The full text of both resolutions is available on the CIG website – www.churchinvestorsgroup.org.uk.

53 institutional co-filers were identified by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, the Diocese of Westminster, Jesuits in Britain, Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation and the United Reformed Church Ministers’ Pension Trust together with ECCR, ICCR, and SHARE. ShareAction – Louise Rouse, and Client Earth also provided invaluable assistance as part of their ongoing work programme. The full list of co-filers can be found here.