OMAHA, Neb. - When the stockholders of Berkshire Hathaway met in Omaha on Saturday, May 3, they heard from those urging a socially responsible investment policy toward corporations doing business in Sudan. The Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) and a United Methodist, was among those speakers.
"The NCC was very active urging divestment in South Africa during apartheid," said Edgar. "It's time for large investors to do the right thing and stop subsidizing the genocide in Darfur."
Edgar was invited to speak by Judith Porter, a stockholder in Berkshire Hathaway from Ardmore, Pa. She is the author of a resolution to pull Berkshire Hathaway money out of PetroChina, a company developing much of Sudan's oil reserves. Berkshire is the second largest holder of PetroChina shares in the world, according to Porter.
Shareholder advocacy is part of the NCC's action plan "to press corporations to end irresponsible behavior or to live up to standards of excellence," says an NCC policy statement.
The 1990 policy statement, "Socially Responsible Investing," (Nov. 14, 1990) was adopted by NCC's General Board. It prohibits NCC investment in companies that make their profits on alcohol, tobacco or gambling. Also prohibited is investment in the top 25 Defense Department (DOD) contractors, those that make nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, and those whose DOD contracts are larger than 15 percent of sales.
The NCC has a four decade-long history of advocating for justice issues through responsible economic action.