Last month, the General Assembly’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) committee concluded a successful engagement with Time Warner, ensuring that the company is dedicated to following its own ethical sourcing policy with its suppliers.
“This is a glowing example of the potential for the work of MRTI,” said the Rev. Brian Ellison, chairman of the committee. “This is what MRTI is for.”
MRTI engages corporations in which the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) owns stock through steps like dialogue and shareholder resolutions.
In Time Warner’s case, MRTI began engagement about four years ago. Time Warner licenses vendors to produce toys and other merchandise featuring its cartoon characters, and MRTI wanted to ensure that the company had a policy outlining and monitoring fair labor practices.
In the years since MRTI’s initial engagement, Time Warner went through several changes, including the hiring of a new CEO, Ellison said.
With these changes, MRTI was unclear on whether Time Warner was still dedicated to the ethical sourcing guidelines it had set years before. Last fall, MRTI filed a shareholder resolution calling for a review and transparent reporting on these guidelines.
After the resolution was filed, MRTI agreed that it would be withdrawn under four conditions: the CEO’s letter to stockholders in Time Warner’s annual report would affirm the company’s commitment to its guidelines; MRTI would speak about the need for such guidelines at the annual stockholders meeting this spring; Time Warner would share with MRTI a confidential draft of its sustainability report for review before publication; and Time Warner and MRTI would meet in the fall to evaluate progress.
This is an example of the day-to-day work of MRTI, Ellison said. Although the committee’s mission is sometimes obscured in controversy, its true goal is to build relationships with companies and work with them for positive change in the lives of real people, he said.
“It shows that corporate engagement can work,” said Bill Somplatsky-Jarman, staff coordinator for MRTI. “Working with companies is a very productive process, especially if you build a long-term relationship.”