Jesuits involvement in Socially Responsible Investing- The Success Story behind Chevron's Human Rights Policy 520

Jesuit involvement in Socially Responsible Investing: The Success Story behind Chevron's Human Rights Policy 520

by Kaleigh McAndrews


Read the book chapter authored by Nicholas J.C. Santos, John Sealey, and Austin G.C. Onuoha

Jesuit involvement in socially responsible investing (SRI) can be traced back to 1974, and even includes Marquette’s own Rev. Nicholas Santos. Santos co-authored a 2014 book chapter detailing the history of Jesuit involvement in SRI initiatives and an example of how Jesuit engagement with one company, Chevron, helped impact the company’s investing to protect human rights in Africa.

Santos, a well-known Assistant Professor of Marketing at Marquette, has spent time working in for-profit and non-profit organizations, bringing forth his professional interests in business ethics and corporate social responsibility. In 2005, he became involved with the National Jesuit Committee on Investment Responsibility (NJCIR), and highlights within the featured publication the Jesuits involvement with SRI; specifically, the story behind Chevron's implementation of their Human Rights Policy 520.

NJCIR’s mission is to advocate for corporate behavior consistent with Catholic Social teaching through dialogues with corporations, filing shareholder resolutions, and engaging in proxy voting.

Another coauthor of the article, John Sealey, is the provincial assistant for social and international ministries for the USA-Midwest Province of the Jesuits. He has worked on designated issues of social concern, shareholder advocacy and in support of Jesuit work overseas, particularly with provinces of Eastern Africa, Northeast India, and Latin America. He joined the NJCIR in 2001, engaging with extractive sectors promoting corporate policies and practices that protect human rights for all.

"We approach the companies from an ethical and faith perspective, but at the time same seek ways to help them understand how the human rights policy will benefit them in their business," Sealy said.

NJCIR played a key role in helping Chevron develop their Human Rights Policy 520. Chevron is one of the world's leading integrated energy companies, having around 51,900 employees working in 180 different countries. As explained in their article, religious institutional investors play a dual role as "investors and as community participants." NJCIR advocates that religious institutional investors have the role of liaisons between corporate operations and a corporation’s social impacts on communities.

In 2004, Chevron Nigeria began a process of engagement with the people of Niger Delta of Nigeria. Ogani environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight others were killed by "Judicial murder," an unjustified use of capital punishment. This caused an uprising in the area, and they experienced increased violence. In 2009, the Royal Dutch Shell agreed to a multimillion dollar settlement in a case accusing human rights abuses in the Niger Delta. As a result, Chevron's board introduced the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU), a community-led, multi-stakeholder participatory partnership model for community engagement and sustainable development (Chevron, 2016), that brought communities together under what is known as the Regional Development Committee (RDC). Chevron provided an initial seed grant for the RDCs to carry out local development projects.

While Chevron has been operating in Nigeria since 1913, it was only recently that they developed a better understanding on how to improve their engagement with the local community.  In 2008, the human rights resolution was filed for the second time with 36-cofilers, followed by a statement made by Chevron regarding the confirmation that they were working towards a policy. At the end of January 2010, the company officially adopted the Human Rights Policy 520. Though there were other forces at work throughout the progression of the policy, it should be noted that the NJCIR coalition was able to increase its co-filer base and supporting votes.

Often, a company's senior executives are not aware of the on-the-ground realities. So, through our Jesuit connections on the ground we can provide these insights to the company's top leadership" said Santos.

As mentioned in the publication "NJCIR's engagement with Chevron on the issue of human rights related to the Jesuits' apostolic concern for Africa and the people there." They had the notion that a fuller human rights policy would benefit Chevron in the long run and improve the livelihood of host communities in areas of economic, environmental, and social development. The Jesuits created a constructive relationship and dialogue with Chevron, allowing them to express their views in a non-judgmental way. It is the expectation that policy 520 will continue to allow Chevron to demonstrate leadership in corporate commitment to human rights.

The committee, including Santos and Sealey, continue to engage with corporations, influencing the protection of human rights, and environmental sustainability; including their ongoing Shareholder dialogue with Aura Minerals, a Toronto-based mining company operating in Brazil, Honduras, and Mexico. Their goal is to get Aura Minerals to implement a comprehensive human rights policy and an equally strong environmental policy exposing the noticeable environmental risks and impacts of open pit mining. Proceeding a successful meeting in June of last year, the JCIR heard that their input on the company's draft Human Rights Policy was most likely to be approved. 

Rev. Nicholas Santos, John Sealey, and their involvement with JCIR demonstrate true justice, and reflect our mission as a Catholic, Jesuit university. Read more about the JCIR and their work on their website.