Daily Management Review

Florida School Shooting Leads Investor Activists In Gun Companies To Force Change In Company Policies


Florida School Shooting Leads Investor Activists In Gun Companies To Force Change In Company Policies
Some investors are asking whether the answer to the guns crisis in the U.S. is not with the government but with the gun companies – especially after the Florida school murder, and many are also suggesting a road map for change.
There is however no guarantee that there would be any meaningful change despite the national debate over gun control and the emergence of a powerful voice of the new generation of activists for gun-control.
However, there is hope that something has indeed changed according to Judy Byron, coordinator of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).
“These high school kids are really changing the debate. I really see some hope this time,” she said. she wants to support the voices with money.
The ICCR is a group that has 300 global institutional investors and together they manage assets worth $400 billion dedicated for faith-based groups, academics, unions and others who are inclined towards investing in projects that are socially responsible.
It was about two years ago that the ICCR began asking its members to invest in gun companies so that they can have a strong voice as shareholders despite the association not considering investments in guns to bed good investments. The change occurred because of the apparently endless incidents of gun rage and related killings in the U.S. and it looks as if the campaign is taking off.
Reports have been sought by ICCR members from Sturm Ruger and American Outdoor Brands (formerly Smith & Wesson) - the two largest listed US gun makers, about what the company is doing to make their guns safer for the society. It is being hoped that application of such pressures would result in the gun companies being pressurized to act more in order to make their guns harder to purchase and safer to use.
“We are not going to do away with guns but what are they [the gun companies] going to do to make them safer?” asked Byron. She said that when phones are not in our possession we can make use of technology to lock them up. “But if I left my gun out on the desk, you could use it. Why is that?” she said.
“Divestment” has bene the focus of shareholder activists to apply pressure on gun companies. While gun companies are avoided by a large number of ethical funds, campaigns havev begun to pressurize pension funds to withdraw their investments in gun companies following the Florida shooting.
According to Larry Fink the founder of BlackRock - BlackRock, the U.S. asset manager with the largest amount of managed assets in the world amounting to $6 trillion, issued a warning to the executives of the company in January to behave as good citizens. “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose,” Fink wrote to CEOs. “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”
“When we do not see progress despite ongoing engagement, or companies are insufficiently responsive to our efforts to protect the long-term economic interests of our clients, we will not hesitate to exercise our right to vote,” BlackRock said a statement.
The involvement of BlackRock is an important victory in the early days of the campaign, said Adam Kanzer, managing director of corporate engagement at Domini Impact Investments.
“They are going to take that meeting,” said Kanzer. “I am very, very pleased to see that big investors are starting to wake up.”
“If you manage a teachers’ pension fund, you have got to be hearing from your investors about this,” he said. “That feels like a real problem to me.”

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