ECCR Newsletter: March 2018 – announcing launch of Church Action for Tax Justice (CAT)

CCMJ is an associate of ECCR  and so receives this Newsletter. It would be good to hear from anyone who is an individual member of ECCR. May you move on bravely in the spirit that Easter evokes – Peter

Dear Peter,  thanks. It is excellent to hear of the launch of CAT on the 19th. My only other comment (as one who has seen the legislative process from the inside over many years, and followed its real impact) is that there are very few new laws which are effectively enforced. That is primarily because the agencies charged with that task are often/usually grossly under-resourced, especially when dealing with huge corporations which can and often do obfuscate the facts via the engagement of unlimited numbers of lawyers and accountants to avoid prosecution.  Ironically, I did a report on sanctions-busting in Rhodesia after Ian Smith unilaterally declared independence in 1975, aided
and abbetted as he was by none other than Shell and B.P..The charity involved then was Social Audit. So please, please encourage CAT and like-minded charities to bear that in mind. The problem is worse today than ever (look at the abject failure to prosecute any of the main Board directors of any of the multinationals in recent years involved in extensive frauds, particularly where international finance is concerned.) Kind regards,   Andrew Phillips  (Lord Phillips of Sudbury)
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility <info@eccr.org.uk>
Date: 29 March 2018 at 18:54 • Subject: ECCR Newsletter • To: peterchallen@gmail.com

March Newsletter

A bumper edition this month and an invitation to join us in writing to Shell.

ECCR joins the newly formed Church Action for Tax Justice (CAT)  

CAT stands for a fairer and more effective tax system, where democratic governments set taxes, and individuals and corporations pay their share, for the Common Good. 

The new body will be launched on the 19th April in the House of Lords by Rowan Williams, and hosted by ECCR patron Richard Harries. Bishop Michael Doe will serve as ECCR’s representative on the steering group. The Methodist Church and/or JPIT, the Society of Friends, and Christian Aid are also represented.  

Church Action for Tax Justice (CAT) is an ecumenical, collaborative campaign platform managed and supported by Christians united by the belief that they, as individuals and as churches, have a prerogative to challenge unjust systems which perpetuate and increase inequality – prominent among which is the global tax system.  

The Tax Justice Network (TJN) estimates that up to $36 trillion may be held in offshore tax havens, where relaxed laws and secretive banking regulations allow the super-wealthy and transnational corporations to avoid paying tax in the countries where they conduct real economic activity – developed and developing alike.  

However, tax can, and should, be a tool for the common good. Through the implementation of key changes to UK and international law, a progressive tax system can redress the imbalance and bring about greater equality at both a national and international level. Church Action for Tax Justice aims to:  

a) Promote an awareness of the crucial issue of Tax Justice in the context of the idea of a ‘race to the top’, a fair tax system which highlights the fundamental relationship between taxation and public services, in the national and wider context;

b) Raise awareness throughout the Churches and faith communities of the urgent need for Tax Justice at a national and international level;

c) Encourage Christian and all religious bodies to promote Tax Justice in their education, mission and financial policies and practices;

d) Support initiatives and campaigns by TJN, TJ-UK, Tax Justice Europe, the Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ), and – as appropriate – faith agencies such as Christian Aid, Church Action on Poverty and Taxpayers Against Poverty.  

ECCR continues to engage with Shell over corruption charges and encourages its members to do the same.

On the 5th March 2018 an unprecedented bribery trial began against oil giants Royal Dutch Shell and Eni, together with some of their most senior executives including current Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi and Shell’s former head of Upstream International Malcolm Brinded. No company the size of Shell or a sitting CEO of an oil major have ever stood trial for bribery before. This development prompted ECCR to write to Shell once more, reiterating some points raised previously but also relating to the current litigation. You can read the full letters here.

The case brought by the Milan Public Prosecutor alleges that $520 million from the 2011 deal for one of Nigeria’s most promising oil blocks, known as OPL 245, was converted into cash and intended to be paid to Nigerian government officials. The prosecutor further alleges that money was also channelled to Eni and Shell executives with $50 million in cash delivered to the home of Eni’s current Chief Operations and Technology Officer Roberto Casula.

The next hearing in the trial is scheduled for the 14th of May. Both companies have denied wrongdoing.
Are you, or an organisation you are associated with, in a position to write a smiliar letter to Shell? If so, please let us know how you get on. More information and support available here.

ECCR has a long history of working to improve the extractives industry and engaging with Shell. In 1994 a Roman Catholic sister contacted ECCR about Shell’s impact in the Niger Delta. ECCR research began and a question was asked at the company’s AGM leading to ECCR/Shell dialogue. In 1997 we jointly submitted a shareholder resolution raising questions about the environmental and human rights impacts of the company’s operations in Ogoni, Nigeria. In 2001, an ECCR delegation visited Nigeria to check on progress since the 1997 shareholder resolution.

More recently we have been supporting the Stakeholders Alliance for Corporate Accountability (SACA) led by Father Kevin from the Kiltegan Fathers UK Order of the St. Patrick’s Mission Society as SACA continues to work in the Niger Delta on a research and evaluation project, to bring insight and understanding into the strengths and weaknesses of Shell’s Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) process.

A major report ‘Shell in the Niger delta: A Framework for Change’ was published by ECCR in 2010 and in September 2013 ECCR facilitated a roundtable at Shell’s London office. As and when we have a response to our recent letter will let you know.

Thanks to Global Witness for their picture of the Milan Palace of Justice where the trial is taking place.

ECCR welcomes Colin Darling as the new EMC West Midlands Development Manager. Colin has worked for many years for faith -based charities including raising awareness of trafficking for sexual exploitation, and for fourteen years with the Church Mission Society in regional support development. He has worked alongside a range of denominations and congregations both in the UK and beyond.

As part of his call to faith, Colin is committed to helping congregations with their ministries relating to social and economic justice and human rights.

He is excited to have the opportunity to work with the Ethical Money Churches(EMC) project of ECCR, with congregations, their partners, and individual people of faith across the West Midlands. He is looking forward to meeting with worshipping communities to explore stewardship of financial resources and assets, and to provide opportunities for sharing, learning and practical engagement in the ethical use of money and what it means to be an “Ethical Money Church”.

Colin and his wife Anne co-lead a small fresh expression church as part of Christ Church the Quinton, in Birmingham Diocese, and in his free time Colin loves long walks in the countryside.

The Plastics Solutions Investor Alliance
Straight into action for California based organisation As You Sow with a major presence at the Starbucks AGM, as their  press release reports:29% of Starbucks’ Shareholder Votes Support As You Sow Proposal on Plastic Straws, Packaging Reuse and Recycling
Nearly a third of Starbucks’ shareholders at the company’s Annual General Meeting last week supported an As You Sow resolution asking the company to phase out use of plastic straws and develop aggressive plans to meet packaging reuse and recycling goals.More than 29% of shares voted (271 million shares), with a market value of $54 billion, to support the proposal. This vote far exceeds the average support of 21.5% for environmental proposals. The proposal was presented on behalf of As You Sow by actor, filmmaker and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador Adrian Grenier.“We are pleased that a significant number of shareholders sent a message to management that its previous efforts to address cup reusability and recycling are insufficient and that stronger actions are needed,” said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president of As You Sow. “This sizable vote indicates the seriousness with which shareholders view threats to the ocean from discarded plastic straws as well as cups, lids, cutlery and other food service items from quick service businesses.”

While the media often dismisses votes that receive less than 50% support as unsuccessful, proposals can have strong impact even with minority vote results. Following a 31% vote result on an As You Sow proposal at McDonald’s Corp. last year, the fast food giant later agreed to phase out use of harmful polystyrene cups and food packaging by the end of 2018, and to recycle packaging in all stores globally by 2025.

The proposal presented at Starbucks’ annual meeting had an impact even before voting results were complete. The day before its annual meeting, the company announced a $10 million investment in designing a more sustainable cup that can be recycled or composted globally, in an attempt to respond to one of the requests in the proposal. However, the company did not address phase-out of plastic straws or a strategy to reach its previous reusables goal set 10 years ago.

In 2008, Starbucks pledged that by 2015, 25% of beverages would be served in reusable containers, and 100% of paper and plastic cups would be recyclable at all owned stores. Today, less than 2% of beverages are served in reusable cups, and only 60% of stores have cup recycling.

ECCR continues to call Lonmin to account with activities around the Lonmin AGM
This month ECCR, together with the London Mining Network and USPG, helped host a visit by those campaigning for the London-based mining company Lonmin to accept their part in what happened at the Marikana mine in South Africa in 2012, and for the deplorable housing and working conditions which continue to this day. Having met Bishop Jo Seoka, the former bishop of Pretoria, and chair of the Benchmarks Foundation, ECCR members joined in a demonstration outside the Lonmin AGM.

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On 15 March, Thumeka Magwangqana from Sikhala Sonke, South African Bishop Johannes Seoka and lawyer Andries Nkome explained their demands to the company management and shareholders in the annual general meeting (AGM) which was held in Lincoln Centre.

Lonmin is a British-South African mining company; it is the world’s third largest platinum producer and is listed on the London Stock Exchange. One of its mines is in Nkaneng, Marikana, an informal settlement in rural South Africa. On August 16, 2012, 34 miners from the Lonmin platinum mine in were shot and killed by South African police during strike action. The miners were on strike due to low pay and inhumane working and living conditions. While the killings were carried out by the police, according to a report by the Farlam Commission, an independent commission of inquiry, significant responsibility for the massacre also lies with Lonmin for failing to adequately negotiate with workers, or to protect its employees during the dispute. Lonmin has obligations to the community that they mine under and around, but they do not comply with these obligations. Since the massacre, living conditions have got worse. Families of those killed are still waiting for compensation and their widows are working at the mine, because they cannot afford not to. Only a handful of the promised 5,500 homes for the 36,000 Lonmin workers have been built. Some 33,000 men, women and children are still living in shacks without access to basic sanitation, water or electricity. In December 2017, weeks before Lonmin’s AGM was due to take place, the company announced that it was to be taken over by South African mining company Sibanye-Stillwater. This makes Marikana’s call for justice even more urgent. When Lonmin as an entity ceases to exist, who will be accountable for the Marikana Massacre?

Bishop Jo has asked ECCR to find out what investments UK churches may have in Lonmin and whether they are engaging on these issues. As with all our work we will keep you informed and welcome your thoughts or news on this issue.

Please get in touch!

We would love to hear from you. Tell us what you think of the newsletter in this format, update us on your own activities, suggest action points, or ask us to publicise your events. info@eccr.org.uk

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