Press Release. 14th July 2017
Investors must consider a company’s stance on human rights when evaluating the value of a stock. This is the basic argument offered by a Rohingya rights campaign in a letter to leading analysts.
#WeAreAllRohingyaNow is a campaign by independent activists reaching out to the private sector for support against the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority from Myanmar. They have just launched an informal advisory to help stakeholders evaluate the position of companies invested in Myanmar, beginning with two of the firms the campaign has lobbied.
“There is no question that the stance a company takes on the issue of the Rohingya genocide will impact its worth,” says Jamila Hanan, director of the campaign. “On the matter of the Rohingya, the sentiments of consumers in Southeast Asia should not be overlooked. We will be campaigning to ensure that how a company acts in relation to a matter such as genocide will affect how people view their brand.”
The new Social Impact Stock Advisory is not a registered or official financial advice service, but Shahid Bolsen, who is heading the project, says “Our evaluations will include factors that conventional financial advisers tend to ignore. The attractiveness of a company cannot only be about the raw data, but should factor in the mood of the market they are trying to reach, and the extent to which the company’s public positions reflect that mood. Investors need to consider all stakeholders: that includes the consumers, the workers, and everyone who contributes to a company’s success or failure. If a company is unresponsive to the issues that stakeholders care about, it is inevitable that the company will experience difficulty, and shareholders need to be aware of that.”
This initiative is implementing a traffic light system for those companies it has assessed regarding their response. “A green light would signify that a company is actively aligning themselves with the sentiments of their consumer constituencies on the Rohingya issue, and we should support these companies with additional purchases and investments,” Bolsen explains. “An amber light indicates that the stance of a company is not entirely clear, they may have voiced some concerns for example, but we are still waiting for their words to be put into meaningful action. A red light will be given to those companies persisting in silence, despite calls to speak out, or worse still siding with the Myanmar regime in their oppression, which we feel will inevitably undermine their value in the market. When the light turns red, that will be a signal for people to consider divesting and changing their buying habits.”
The campaign has now placed Unilever on amber, since they have publicly affirmed support for the protection of the Rohingya and the implementation of United Nations recommendations. The campaign is waiting for Unilever’s next steps in the hope that they may be upgraded to green, to encourage people to buy Unilever.
Norwegian telecom giant Telenor, however, has resisted taking a public stand on this issue, and has thus been downgraded to red, until such a time that their silence may be broken. The recent letter to analysts states, “We are now faced with no option but to advise current Telenor and Digi customers to change service providers, and we advise those shareholders who are concerned about ethical matters to now sell their stock, until such a time when Telenor’s silence on the Rohingya genocide is broken.”
The campaign is currently organizing grassroots activism among regional consumers and recommends that if Telenor wants to see its subsidiary Digi, in Malaysia, reverse the current trend of customers abandoning their service, the best thing they can do is to speak out on this matter.
Hanan says, “The Rohingya issue is profoundly important to people in the region, no company can ignore it without suffering a customer backlash. Our campaign is not about stopping investment, but rather encouraging socially positive investment. We look forward to Telenor reconsidering its silence and joining Unilever in voicing its concerns on this issue so that we can upgrade its score.”
For more information, please contact:
Link to the open letter: https://allrohingyanow.org/act/open-letter-to-telenor-investment-advisers/
Campaign logo for publication: http://bit.do/rohingyalogo
Disclosure: the campaign has no vested interest in any of the companies being lobbied, nor their competitors, and no one in the campaign’s steering group holds any stock.
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