Friday, September 09, 2011

ConocoPhillips commits to indigenous peoples' rights with support from BBT

August 31, 2011, Elgin, Ill. - Energy company ConocoPhillips recently announced that it revised its Human Rights Position to specifically address and honor the rights of indigenous peoples in areas where the company conducts its business. Stakeholders, led by Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust and Boston Common Asset Management, have worked closely with the company on this issue and applaud the company for this important public statement in support of the rights of indigenous peoples. ConocoPhillips' Human Rights Position now states that the company's approach to indigenous communities in locations where they are an important stakeholder group for the company's operations "is consistent with the principles of the International Labour Organization Convention 169, concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."The multi-billion dollar oil company is one of the first energy companies to adopt such a commitment. "ConocoPhillips positions itself as a leader among its peers by publicly affirming the human rights of indigenous peoples," said Steve Mason, director of BBT's socially responsible investing initiatives.

"We, the stakeholders, have appreciated the opportunity to work with the company and to offer our perspective for the company's consideration. We also affirm the company's willingness to engage the stakeholders and to consider our perspective."

Dialog and meetings, not shareholder resolutions, prove to be beneficial to the outcome As a ConocoPhillips shareholder, BBT and the manager of those shares, Boston Common, have been working on this issue since 2003, when BBT was a shareholder of a company that ConocoPhillips later purchased in 2006. In 2007 and 2008, BBT was the lead filer of a shareholder resolution with ConocoPhillips for a group of more than a dozen shareholders that urged the company to include the rights of indigenous peoples in its human rights policy. BBT initially pursued another shareholder resolution in 2009, but that resolution was later withdrawn because of the company's willingness to engage in meaningful dialog with stakeholders, including BBT and other shareholders, Boston Common, and advocacy groups, such as Amazon Watch.

Since 2008, ConocoPhillips representatives have met many times with stakeholders, both in Houston and in New York as well as by conference call. Stakeholders have attended each of the company's annual shareholder meetings in Houston, keeping the issue in front of senior management and the board by offering comments and asking questions at each meeting. Steve Mason, representing BBT, spoke on this issue at the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 meetings.

The statement supporting the rights of indigenous peoples, which was approved by Chairman Jim Mulva and the ConocoPhillips board, was facilitated by active and positive dialog between ConocoPhillips executives and representatives of interested stakeholders like BBT. This conversational approach to facilitating change is a major step in the direction of corporate transparency and shareholder dialog for ConocoPhillips.

"Boston Common sees ConocoPhillips as an industry leader by incorporating ILO 169 and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into its corporate human rights policies," said Steven Heim, a managing director of Boston Common Asset Management. "BBT and Boston Common's deliberative and constructive engagement with ConocoPhillips has paid off. We encourage ConocoPhillips to fully and transparently implement a free, prior, and informed consent policy globally, like its pledge for indigenous communities in Peru. If the company both consults and integrates the views and aspirations of indigenous communities in development decisions, we believe - in the long term - it will help ConocoPhillips maintain its social license to operate and therefore gain access to new reserves."

U.N. statement on indigenous peoples demands "the right to full enjoyment" The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, includes 46 articles of conduct that address matters such as land ownership (including the right to seek compensation for territories that were seized in the past), political representation, cultural preservation rights, and more.

Similarly, the Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, which was adopted by the General Conference of the International Labour Organization in 1989, encourages the adoption of a litany of rights related to land, government protection, and self-expression.

BBT's socially responsible investing program includes active engagement with companies BBT is the financial services agency of the Church of the Brethren. It oversees the management of assets invested in Brethren Pension Plan and with Brethren Foundation. In addition to pursuing change through shareholder engagement, such as the work done with ConocoPhillips, BBT's SRI program also screens out companies that are in conflict with positions of the Church of the Brethren as presented in Annual Conference statements and offers a community-building investment option for its members.

Source: 9/9/2011 Newsline