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Faith-based investors persuade Tyson to conduct racial equity audit

PC(USA) responsible investment group part of organization that called for the assessment

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by BP Miller via Unsplash

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The Presbyterian Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) is part of an investors group that successfully persuaded Tyson Foods to conduct a racial equity audit

Last week, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), of which the PC(USA) is a member, announced it was withdrawing a proposal for Tyson’s 2022 proxy after negotiations with the meatpacking company resulted in an agreement to conduct a study into whether its policies have a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color.

Rob Fohr is director of Faith-Based Investment and Corporate Engagement for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (Photo by Rich Copley)

“This shows the ongoing impacts and benefits of shareholder engagement long demonstrated by members of ICCR,” said Rob Fohr, Director of Faith-Based Investing and Corporate Engagement, the PC(USA) office that staffs MRTI. “We are so grateful to our faith- and values-based colleagues who led this effort and worked with grassroots organizations to bring their concerns to the forefront of this discussion.”

The American Baptist Home Mission Societies — like the PC(USA), a founding member of ICCR — was the lead filer of the proposal. In its agreement with investors, Tyson accepted the key terms of the proposal, including:

  • The racial equity audit will be conducted by an independent third party
  • The report will be made public
  • There is a one-year reporting timeline
  • It will be a consultative process including interviews with impacted stakeholders as well as investor feedback
  • The company committed to further dialogue with ICCR members, referencing value in collaborative engagement with faith-based investors.

The proposal was filed by 17 faith-based investor members of ICCR. Tyson has been a company of concern for ICCR in the past and has had previous resolutions filed by the group over issues including water rights and human rights abuses of workers in poultry plants.

Tyson and other meatpacking companies were widely criticized in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic for their treatment of workers who are mostly from communities of color. Complaints included forcing people to work during the pandemic while not following safety protocols to curb the spread of the virus.

“Over the course of the pandemic, Tyson has been squeezing workers even harder to endure inhumane working conditions and deplorable wages,” Magaly Licolli, executive director of Venceremos (We Will Win), an organization in Arkansas focused on protecting human rights for poultry workers, said in an ICCR press release. “Tyson treats workers of color as expendable and without any human value. We hope that the company will follow through on its promise to conduct a truthful accounting of its racial equity failures by acknowledging the harm done every day to the brown and Black poultry workers in its plants, and then go further by implementing systemic solutions to correct this injustice rather than just words on paper.”

The Presbyterian Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment/Office of Faith-Based Investing and Corporate Engagement is one of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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