For the first time, an American mining firm has supported a
"social responsibility" resolution put forward by shareholder
Shareholders of Newmont Mining Co., the world's largest gold
mining firm, approved this week an independent review of the
environmental and social impacts of the company's global operations.
And before the vote Tuesday, the Denver-based company took what
activists say is the unprecedented step of endorsing the measure.
The milestone shows the ability of the "ethical investing"
movement to gain the ear of major corporations, especially for
environmental concerns as companies come under increased pressure to
go green, say specialists in the field.
"Social investors are small in number, but their ability to
attract the attention of substantial numbers of traditional
investors on particular issues or particular companies is becoming
increasingly easy," says Steven Lydenberg, chief investment officer
for Domini Social Investments, a New York-based firm that
specializes in socially responsible investing (SRI).
Shareholder activists filed 75 environmental proposals in the
first half of 2006, including proposals asking companies to report
on energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse emissions, and limit use of
toxic chemicals, according to Institutional Shareholder Services.
In 21 cases, the motions resulted in deals with companies,
including Home Depot, Lowe's, and General Motors, all of which
agreed to provide significant information on aspects of their
Newmont says it urged shareholders to support the review of
locally controversial company practices because the company wanted
to demonstrate to the outside world that it operates properly.
The company has suffered from recent publicity debacles,
including large street protests in South America and a high-profile
court battle in Indonesia.An Indonesian court this week acquitted
the company of charges that its operations poisoned Buyat Bay and
local residents with mercury and arsenic. Indonesian prosecutors
reportedly will appeal the decision.
The shareholder resolution recommends that independent members of
the company's board of directors - not management - conduct the
global review and produce a report.
"It will contain the good, bad, and the ugly, but we're not
necessarily afraid of that," says Newmont spokesman Omar Jabara. "We
do need to know where we can improve. There's nothing worse than
having an issue out there and not knowing about it until it's too
late or festered into a big problem."
Whether the report becomes a "greenwash" or truly credible
depends on its implementation, says Julie Tanner, corporate advocacy
coordinator with Christian Brothers Investment Services, a Catholic
SRI firm based in New York, which led the successful shareholder