The Multinational Monitor


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Reflections On A Year's Work

by Kathleen Selvaggio

Another year has come to an end, but the work of activists continues with barely a pause.

After twelve busy months, activists can point to some tangible successes. To review their progress, we asked five key activists to reflect on their experiences of the past year. The individuals included here speak for the corporate divestment movement, the church-based corporate responsibility movement, the infant formula campaign, and the campaign concerned with international trade in pesticides. These represent only some of the diverse constituencies that monitor and oppose corporate injustices. We invite other activists to share their experiences with the readers of Multinational Monitor.

TIM SMITH is the executive director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a churchbased organization in New York that works to promote the social responsibility of corporations. ICCR is perhaps best known for its shareholder activism; earlier this year, the organization's members had 119 shareholder resolutions pending with 86 corporations on issues ranging from plant closings to investment in South Africa to weapons production. Together, ICCR's 200 Roman Catholic orders and dioceses and 17 Protestant denominations hold approximately $8 billion in corporate investments.

Among the major issues that the churches are addressing this year are: corporate involvement in the nuclear arms race, equal employment opportunity, plant closings, investment in South Africa, infant formula sales, the abuses of pharmaceutical companies overseas, pesticide and herbicide sales overseas, and linking the international exposure of banks with the programs of the IMF. In raising these issues you often face tremendous corporate power and influence as well as the long-embedded belief that corporations are not terribly interested in changing.

Having said that, however, we see significant changes in corporate policy over the last five years that church advocacy has helped create. To highlight a few of the most recent successes:

In September, Bank of America announced a new policy that would prohibit all further lending to the South African government and its agencies. Churches had been pressing for this change for the last five years through shareholder resolutions and public campaigns. It's a very important shift in policy for a bank that size.

In April, Continental Illinois Bank and the First National Bank of Chicago agreed to stop selling kruggerands, which had been a major goal of Chicago-area clergy, community, and civil rights groups. And in the summer, Shearson/American Express, a brokerage house, agreed to stop advertising and promoting kruggerands, though they have not stopped selling them.

This year, we scored a victory when pesticide manufacturers agreed to a set of guidelines governing their sale of pesticides overseas. These came about through a joint working group of churches, environmental groups, and industry, which was formed as a result of a shareholder resolution with Union Carbide. The group promulgated guidelines which were endorsed by the National Agriculture Chemical Association, with almost all companies voting in favor of it. Now we will go back to the individual companies and ask them to commit themselves to putting the guidelines into practice.

We believe the church corporate responsibility movement plays a terribly important role in the 1980s in calling corporations to greater accountability.

ICCR can be reached at 475 Riverside Drive, Room 566, New York, NY 10115, (212) 870-2936.

DAVID CHATFIELD is the international director of the North American office of Pesticide Action Network International in San Francisco, a network of groups concerned about pesticide abuse and global trade in pesticides. Approximately 70 organizations in North America participate in PAN, with about 200 groups active worldwide. '

PAN has only been around a year and a half, and it has been a tremendous success. Probably its primary contribution has been creating information links that weren't there before. That's vital, because Third World organizations working on pesticide issues need information that often is only available in the major exporting countries. The U.S. has the best public information, which puts responsibility on us to be active in these information links. For example, the International Organization of Consumers' Unions has published a major review of 44 problems pesticides which had a good deal of technical input from PAN members in the U.S.

This year, PAN has been very active in initiating and helping to push through a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly on trade in toxic substances and in starting the debate in the Food and Agriculture Organization on a code of conduct for international trade in pesticides. PAN organizations were instrumental in presenting the issue and gaining support for the U.N. resolution - which passed 146 to 1 in December 1982, the one dissenting vote coming from the U.S. The resolution does two important things: 1) it urges proper notification of the status of a hazardous substance, for instance whether its use is restricted in its country of origin, to be sent to the importing government before it is shipped, and 2) it instructs the Secretary General of the U.N. to compile a list of hazardous products which are restricted in their country of origin so that importing countries can easily find out the regulatory status of a product.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is moving ahead on a voluntary code of conduct for the marketing of pesticides and PAN will be very involved in monitoring that, working to influence government positions on it, providing information, etc. We are trying to make this code something that controls the shortterm problems of marketing, advertising, labelling. The FAO is expected to consider the code in November 1984, and PAN will be meeting in Europe in the next few months to confer on how to approach the code.

PAN can be reached at Friends of the Earth, 1045 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA 94111, (415) 433-7373.

GAIL HOVEY is the research director for the New York-based American Committee on Africa. One of the oldest organizations to seek support in the U.S. for liberation in South Africa, the committee has played a leading role in the movement to divest corporate funds from South Africa.

The divestment campaign is like a snowball, it's getting bigger.

Ideally, we would call for mandatory universal sanctions against South Africa - that's what is needed. But clearly with the administration that currently exists in Washington, that's an impossibility. And so we have turned to the strategy of divesting state and municipal money, which in addition to weakening South Africa's access to technology and capital, creates a climate within the U.S. in which a different kind of national policy becomes possible.

In 1982, there were major victories when the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Michigan, as well as the cities of Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Grand Rapids passed divestment bills. So in 1983, we started getting data from these cities and states that demonstrate that, in fact, one can divest without losing money. The places that are now discussing divestment are very large states like New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Illinois where the state pension funds are in the billions, as opposed to the millions, of dollars. In 1984, divestment legislation will be discussed in more than 15 states at different levels.

In 1983, two more cities were added to the list: Santa Cruz, California and Washington, D.C. In early 1984, Congress will decide whether or not they are going to veto the D.C. bill. So the question will be debated in a national arena.

1983 saw more activity in the U.S. Congress than any previous year. So far, only one of the bills has passed - the bill that requires the U.S. representative to the IMF to vote against loans to any country that practices apartheid. The language of the bill is heavy with caveats but there is at least the possibility that didn't exist before of cutting off that source of capital to South Africa. Other bills still pending are amendments to the Export Administration Act, which has passed the House but has not been brought before the Senate. The amendments include prohibition of U.S. commercial banks loans to the South African government, a strengthened ban on the sale of U.S. goods to the South African police or military; and a ban on new investments by U.S. firms in South Africa.

We were able to mobilize state representatives and senators and city council people to lobby their federal representatives on these bills. Representatives to Congress would say, "I'm supporting these bills because the people of my state have already expressed themselves on this issue. I know that they want the links between the U.S. and South Africa broken, so I'm going along with this legislation." So already there has been payoff by having the issue debated in the states. There's a much greater constituency to put pressure on the U.S. Congress.

In October, representatives from 75 different colleges all over the country attended a student conference on divestment in New York. There they planned two weeks of action in the spring between the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre, March 21, and the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King in early April.

A number of churches are taking the issue more seriously. Trade unions are getting more involved, since all of these state and city divestment bills deal with the pension funds of public employees and getting the state employees unions involved is critical for passage. And, of course, support comes from the black community. In every state that has considered a divestment bill, major leadership has come from black elected officials.

American Committee on Africa can be reached at 198 Broadway, New York, NY 10038, (212) 962-1210.

DOUG JOHNSON is the chairperson and founder of the Infact Formula Action Coalition (INFACT), the Minneapolis-based grassroots organization that has spearheaded the Nestle boycott in the U.S. Since 1981, when the World Health Organization passed a code of conduct for the marketing practices of infant formula companies, INFACT has been working to bring Nestle and other companies into compliance with the code. INFACT's highly successful organizing campaign has recently moved into a new phase, which Johnson describes below.

There are two ways to look at INFACT's recent success: internal and external. Internally, we have gone through quite a reevaluation. A year ago, we decided that we would begin a new model of organizing the campaign, so that we could step beyond 20 members in a city and build a much more intense campaign effort. So in February 1983, we launched a "campaign center" in Chicago, where for the first time we organized directly in a local area. We chose Chicago because it was a key market area.

After three months, the center's organizers had developed an activist base of 250 people in the Chicago area. These people then helped launch a drive to present Nestle and local retailers with petitions demanding that Nestle comply with the WHO code; in another three months they raised 50,000 signatures. In the process of being out in front of the grocery stores every week, they started getting major supermarkets (except for the chain stores) to begin withdrawing Taster's Choice from the shelves. We heard from inside Nestle that we had really scared them there. They twice sent teams of four to five PR people from Washington to Chicago to try and counter our new campaign.

In August, we went to Boston. There we started a house meeting drive, which is like a Tupperware party, but with a social justice bent. In 35 days in Boston, we held 131 house meetings, reached 850 people, signed up 458 as activists, and launched the petition drive. And in the first two and a half hours of the petition drive, we raised 6,258 signatures and about $800.

In 1983, we also launched the Nestle's boycott in two more countries, Norway and Finland, bringing the total to ten. In both countries, the Nestle people were right there at the time, trying to convince them not to let it go forward.

Last spring we had the first international boycott meeting in order to do more extensive planning, participation, and coordination. That is a major new development that has Nestle quite worried. Europe as a whole is the largest market; the United States is the largest single country market. So it was key that we establish the boycott in Europe. Now it is active in France, West Germany, England, and all the Scandinavian countries.

This month we also presented Nestle with our four final demands, and informed them that if their response is acceptable, we'd be willing to make a recommendation to our international conference in Mexico City this February that the boycott be suspended. We demanded that Nestle stop providing free supplies of infant formula to hospitals; stop producing literature for health professionals and mothers which omits the hazards of formula feeding and the benefits of breast feeding, as required by the code; stop using gifts as marketing devices; and stop using labels which fail to warn of potential dangers.

INFACT can be reached at 310 E. 38th St., Suite 301, Minneapolis, MN 55409, (612) 825-6837.

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