Chevron shareholders vote on business with genocide-complicit governments
Falls Church, Va., 5/31/17 — Shareholders of energy giant Chevron voted today on a proposal for the company to evaluate a policy of no longer doing business with countries believed to be complicit in genocide. The proposal focuses on the nation of Myanmar/Burma, whose military is accused of committing atrocities against the Rohingya ethnic minority. Because the vote tally was greater than three percent in favor, U.S. Securities and Exchange (SEC) rules allow the resolution to be resubmitted next year.
Preliminary estimates showed that six percent of shareholders voted for the resolution, according to International Campaign for the Rohingya Executive Director Simon Billenness, who moved the resolution at the Chevron annual general meeting today on behalf of lead filers Azzad Asset Management and the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, U.S. Province.
According to SEC requirements, to resubmit resolutions in subsequent years after an initial filing, the proposal must win the support of at least three percent of the shares voted in its first year, six percent in its second, and 10 percent in its third year and all years thereafter.
“We are encouraged by the results of today’s vote, but more work remains,” said Azzad President and CEO Bashar Qasem. “It is imperative that shareholders understand the reputational risk posed by Chevron’s partnership with an agency of a government believed to be currently engaged in grave human rights abuses. Global concern about the violent actions of the Burmese military is growing as new atrocities come to light or are committed. The reputational risk of doing business with such a government grows proportionally. We look forward to making the case against doing business with governments like Burma as we prepare to resubmit the resolution for next year.”
“We are pleased with the vote, but more importantly, the pressure on the Rohingya by the government and armed forces makes us question why Chevron appears to disregard its human rights policy implementation criteria,” said Ursuline Sisters spokesperson Valerie Heinonen.
Speaking from outside the meeting in Midland, Texas, Billenness characterized Chevron CEO John Watson’s response to the resolution as “disturbingly dismissive of the reputational, financial, and operational risks of doing business with a regime linked to potential genocide against the Rohingya in Burma.”
The shareholder resolution describes the recent violence by Burma’s army against the ethnic Rohingya people in Rakhine state in western Burma. Through its subsidiary Unocal Myanmar Offshore Co., Ltd., Chevron entered into a production sharing contract with the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise in 2015 to explore for oil and gas in the Rakhine Basin.
The resolution voted on at today’s meeting asked Chevron to issue a report by the end of November 2017 examining the feasibility of adopting a policy of not doing business with governments that are complicit in genocide and/or crimes against humanity. This is the first time a resolution has specifically focused on Burma’s 1.1 million Rohingya people.
In response to the shareholder proposal, Chevron’s management drew attention to its current human rights policy. Like many companies, Chevron defers to local governments to uphold human rights, which according to the proposal’s supporters, is insufficient given reports of state-sanctioned persecution.
In late November 2016, the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights said that abuses perpetrated against the Rohingya by the Burmese military may amount to crimes against humanity. These crimes include beating and killing people, including children and elderly people, mass gang-rape, and burning homes and other buildings with families trapped inside. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has reported that the Rohingya are “at grave risk of additional mass atrocities and even genocide.”
About Azzad Asset Management: Azzad Asset Management is a socially responsible registered investment advisor committed to providing investment services designed to help people enjoy optimum performance without compromising their values. Azzad believes that companies operating in ethical lines of business offer relatively less business risk and are in a better position to thrive in the long term. Azzad is a member of the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, and the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions. The firm is based in Falls Church, Virginia.
About Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, U.S. Province: The Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk is a Roman Catholic religious women’s congregation based in Belgium with provinces in Belgium, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, the United States and missions in Canada, British Guyana, and Rwanda. Ministries vary and include spiritual direction, education, hospitals and clinics, and shelters for rural women working in cities.
About International Campaign for the Rohingya: The International Campaign for the Rohingya advocates and amplifies the voice of the Rohingya with international organizations, governments, corporations, and civil society. Its mission is to help the Rohingya secure peace, security, and their rights wherever they reside.
Azzad Asset Management: Investment Communications Director Joshua Brockwell, 703-207-7005, ext. 109 (office), 571-970-8695 (cell), email@example.com; Amina Rubin, 703-207-7005, ext. 120, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ursuline Sisters: Sister Valerie Heinonen, o.s.u., Director of Shareholder Advocacy, 212-674-2542, email@example.com
International Campaign for the Rohingya: Simon Billenness, Executive Director, 202-643-7902 (office), 617-596-6158 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org