There are three ways we use our money for good through Wespath. We invest in companies and projects that make the world a better place. We avoid certain sectors of the market for ethical reasons. And for companies on the middle ground-- neither superstars nor villains-- we engage with them and encourage them to do the right thing, especially when a specific ethical concern arises, such as the opioid crisis.
According to the CDC, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2017, and that number is on the rise. Ongoing lawsuits implicate drug companies and pharmacies in these deaths. Wespath has decided to engage with companies throughout the supply chain to reduce the harm done by opioids.
Shareholder engagement takes many forms, but it often happens in coalition with other major investors. In this case, Wespath joined Investors for Opioid Accountability (IOA), which is a global coalition representing 54 institutional investors with a combined $3.5 Trillion in assets under management.
The IOA uses several strategies to engage companies: letters, meetings, roundtables with stakeholders, and shareholder resolutions. Resolutions are voted on, in person and by proxy, at Annual General Meetings. Wespath holds shares in nearly 5,000 companies and has the opportunity to vote at each. Wespath supports the IOA’s resolutions with its votes. For example, in 2018, Wespath voted for a resolution requiring RiteAid to provide a risk report related to the opioid epidemic. The resolution passed with 61% support.
RiteAid’s report is expected to be published later this month. Will it fix the crisis overnight? No. But it forces part of the opioid supply chain to acknowledge the role it has played. It also chips away at the industry’s moral license to continue business as usual.
Your church and conference endowments are being leveraged as a witness of our faith to demand accountability where it counts. That’s something we can all feel proud of.