Oxfam America and the Social Investment Forum presented a forum called “New Frontiers in NGO-Shareholder Collaborations: The No Dirty Gold Campaign” on March 27 in the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Oxfam America CEO Ray Offenheiser keynoted the evening, which also featured a panel that was moderated by Oxfam America board member Bennett Freeman and featured Keith Slack of Oxfam America, Steve D'Esposito of Earthworks, Patrick Doherty of the New York City Comptroller's Office, and Peggy Jo Donahue of Jewelers of America.
The NDG panel focused on the challenges and successes of the campaign. Slack and D'Esposito began the discussion with background on the campaign's strategy and successes. Doherty and Donahue followed with their perspectives on the need for mining reform.
“Bad human rights, social and labor policies are also bad for business,” said Patrick Doherty during his remarks. “When situations like the Exxon Valdez spill happened, who took the hit? Shareholders.”
The New York City Comptroller's Office, which manages close to $93 billion in pension funds, has in recent years filed shareholder resolutions with mining companies such as Newmont and Freeport-McMoRan over corporate social responsibility issues, including harmful environmental practices, corruption, and human rights abuses.
Doherty went on to describe the long-term positions the New York City Comptroller's Office takes in its investments and the influence that created in negotiations with major mining firms such as Freeport McMoRan. Both Doherty and Donahue also noted the critical role civil society plays in influencing corporate and social responsibility.
“During the conflict diamonds crisis, the jewelry industry learned that it wasn't helpful or constructive to butt heads with civil society on these issues,” Peggy Jo Donahue said. “The JA (Jewelers of America) position on responsible sourcing has been very supportive of what has been going on with NDG (the No Dirty Gold campaign).”
Slack and D' Esposito, representatives of the No Dirty Gold campaign, expressed their continued willingness to engage with the Jewelers of America and the Council of Responsible Jewellery Practices (CRJP). Slack noted, however, that the mining industry's practices on the ground must change in order for CRJP to be effective.
“Is CRJP going to be a vehicle for improving mining industry performance?” asked Keith Slack. “Miners in the council need to step forward and show that they are taking concrete steps to change.”
“New Frontiers in NGO-Shareholder Collaborations: The No Dirty Gold Campaign” forum was part of the Spring meeting of the Social Investment Forum's International Working Group (IWG) and the Social Investment Research Analyst Network (SIRAN).