Non-profit

Midwest Province of the Capuchin Franciscans

The Midwest Province of the Capuchin Franciscans is an order of friars in the Catholic Church. The Midwest Capuchins, as they are typically called, conduct activist investing, using the order’s stakes in public companies to advocate for principally left leaning environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies. [1]

As of 2017, the Midwest Capuchins were reported to have a $100 million investment portfolio. [2]

The portfolio is subjected to screens that exclude any company connected with abortion or that derives more than 10 percent of its revenues from nuclear weapons. [3] The Midwest Capuchins also choose to invest in companies with which they disagree, such as Phillip Morris and Exxon Mobil, for the specific purpose of influencing them. [4]

Beliefs and Practices

The Capuchins trace their origins back to St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century who gave up his riches to live a simple life and serve the poor. Today there are six Capuchin provinces in the United States with ministries in mostly urban and rural cities and towns. The Province of St. Joseph covers the upper Midwest and is the largest province with approximately 170 friars. [5] The friars, or brothers, live together holding minimal material possessions and minister to their local communities. [6]

The Capuchin provinces are financed by private benefactors, and their investment portfolio is managed by financial advisors but controlled by Capuchin elders. [7]

Activist Investing

The Midwest Capuchins’ record of activist investing dates back to at least the 1990s. Its efforts were spearheaded by Capuchin Father Michael Crosby, who was active for more than 30 years before his death in 2017. [8]

Crosby also co-founded the Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment (ICR), which also supports environmental, social, and governance (ESG) campaigns and now counts 40 religious-affiliated institutions as members. [9] The Midwest Capuchins and the Seventh Generation ICR are also members of the left-leaning Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). [10]

Crosby bought shares of Phillip Morris in 1980 in order to have a say at the company. [11] His activism with the company included a shareholder resolution in 2000 to support legislation to put tobacco behind the counter in stores where it would be less accessible to minors. [12]

In 1996, Crosby filed a shareholder resolution with Exxon Mobil urging it to confront the lack of upward mobility for women employees. Company representatives traveled to Chicago to meet with him, and he was ultimately persuaded to withdraw the resolution. [13]

The following year, in 1997, Crosby and the Midwest Capuchins launched what would become a 20-year investor activism effort to pressure Exxon Mobil to adopt various left-leaning environmentalism policies and measures. [14]

Also in 1997, the Midwest Capuchins filed a shareholder resolution calling on the Boeing Co. to develop human rights criteria for its dealings with China. It was voted down. [15]

Beginning in 2015, the Midwest Capuchins led a three year shareholder campaign calling for a climate change specialist to be appointed to the board of directors for Exxon Mobil. In January 2017, the company announced the appointment of Susan Avery, an atmospheric scientist, to its board. Following the appointment, Exxon officials called the Midwest Capuchins asking them to withdraw their resolution, which, according to one Capuchin Friar, “acknowledge[ed] the significance of our resolution in their decision making process.” [16]

The Midwest Capuchins have argued against large institutional investments in conventional energy. When Pope Francis sent an encyclical in 2015 about the impact of climate change, Crosby remarked to a reporter, “You now have this clash between Pope Francis’ vision of the world, and the world that the bishops who run the investments live in.” He further lamented that the bishops were a “conservative group” and therefore would not be quick to divest from oil. [17]

In 2017, the Midwest Capuchins filed a shareholder resolution with Kraft Heinz asking the company to produce a comprehensive environmental and social sustainability report “describing its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance and goals, including nutrition targets.” [18]

In September of 2019, the Midwest Capuchins signed a letter urging the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to rescind an award to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging Modi’s government was committing human rights violations. The letter was authored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. [19]

References

  1. “Corporate Responsibility.” CapuchinFranciscans.org. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.capuchinfranciscans.org/what-we-do/social-justice/corporate-responsibility ^
  2. Arkin, Fatima. “How faith-based shareholders are pushing companies to do more on climate change.” DevEx. June 2, 2017. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.devex.com/news/how-faith-based-shareholders-are-pushing-companies-to-do-more-on-climate-change-90406 ^
  3. Barakat, Matthew. “Religion Motivates Shareholder Proposals.” The Associated Press. Sept 8, 2000. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.greensboro.com/religion-motivates-shareholder-proposals/article_2184606a-38ed-52fc-a0f3-a48257814cca.html ^
  4. Barakat, Matthew. “Religion Motivates Shareholder Proposals.” The Associated Press. Sept 8, 2000. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.greensboro.com/religion-motivates-shareholder-proposals/article_2184606a-38ed-52fc-a0f3-a48257814cca.html ^
  5. “Capuchin History.” CapuchinFranciscans.org. December 17, 2019. https://www.capuchinfranciscans.org/who-we-are/capuchin-history ^
  6. Hepler Drahos, Marta. “Brother Parker: TC native is now a friar.” Record-Eagle. Aug 21, 2010. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.record-eagle.com/news/body_and_soul/brother-parker-tc-native-is-now-a-friar/article_996332b6-a2d4-52d4-a419-feb2094e63b9.html ^
  7. Arkin, Fatima. “How faith-based shareholders are pushing companies to do more on climate change.” DevEx. June 2, 2017. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.devex.com/news/how-faith-based-shareholders-are-pushing-companies-to-do-more-on-climate-change-90406 ^
  8. Sadowski, Dennis. “Fr. Michael Crosby dies at 77; led corporate responsibility campaigns.” Catholic News Service. August 7, 2017. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.thecompassnews.org/2017/08/fr-michael-crosby-dies-77-led-corporate-responsibility-campaigns/ ^
  9. “Membership.” SGICRI. https://seventhgenerationinterfaith.org/membership/ ^
  10. Press release. “Shareholders Welcome Appointment of Climate Expert to ExxonMobil Board.” Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Jan 26th 2017. Accessed December 17, 2019. www.iccr.org/shareholders-welcome-appointment-climate-expert-exxonmobil-board ^
  11. Barakat, Matthew. “Religion Motivates Shareholder Proposals.” The Associated Press. Sept 8, 2000. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.greensboro.com/religion-motivates-shareholder-proposals/article_2184606a-38ed-52fc-a0f3-a48257814cca.html ^
  12. Barakat, Matthew. “Religion Motivates Shareholder Proposals.” The Associated Press. Sept 8, 2000. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.greensboro.com/religion-motivates-shareholder-proposals/article_2184606a-38ed-52fc-a0f3-a48257814cca.html ^
  13. “In The Market For Justice: Religious Groups Urge Companies To Respect Environment.” Catholic Herald. March 9, 2016. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://catholicherald.org/news/local/religious-groups-urge-companies-to-respect-environment/ ^
  14. “In The Market For Justice: Religious Groups Urge Companies To Respect Environment.” Catholic Herald. March 9, 2016. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://catholicherald.org/news/local/religious-groups-urge-companies-to-respect-environment/ ^
  15. Malcolm, Teresa. “Boeing Shareholders Say No to Rights Criteria.” National Catholic Reporter. May 9, 1997. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.questia.com/read/1G1-19415720/boeing-shareholders-sy-no-to-rights-criteria ^
  16. Arkin, Fatima. “How faith-based shareholders are pushing companies to do more on climate change.” DevEx. June 2, 2017. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.devex.com/news/how-faith-based-shareholders-are-pushing-companies-to-do-more-on-climate-change-90406 ^
  17. Valdmanis, Richard. “Pope Francis’s climate push at odds with U.S. Catholic oil investments.” Reuters. August 13, 2015. Accessed December 17, 2019. http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2015/08/13/pope-franciss-climate-push-at-odds-with-u-s-catholic-oil-investments/ ^
  18. Cheeseman, Gina-Marie. “Kraft Heinz Opposes Sustainability Shareholder Resolutions.” Triple Pundit. March 14, 2017. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2017/kraft-heinz-opposes-sustainability-shareholder-resolutions/18966 ^
  19. Press release. “52 Groups Urge Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Rescind Award to Indian PM Modi.” Sep 17, 2019. Accessed December 17, 2019. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cair-52-groups-urge-bill–melinda-gates-foundation-to-rescind-award-to-indian-pm-modi-300920190.html ^
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