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Everence researcher engages companies in social change

2 minute read

Chris Meyer dreams big dreams.

“I would love to see our global financial system be transformed into a more sustainable structure that accounts for the human and environmental impacts of our economy, not just the short-term financial effort,” says the Ohio man, who works as manager of stewardship investing research and advocacy for Everence Financial/Praxis Mutual Funds. “I hope to be part of that transformation.”

Meyer, who joined Everence in 2006, works on shareholder advocacy, focusing on environmental sustainability, working to end modern slavery and addressing inequality.

Most of the corporate dialogues he engages in involve collaboration with other faith-based and socially responsible investors. He has been part of efforts that involve as many as 20 investor participants. Most are smaller groups representing three to eight organizations.Chris Meyer099 credit Photo by Todd Kaminski courtesy of EverenceChris Meyer cleans solar panels that provide electricity for his home in rural Ohio Photo by Todd Kaminski courtesy of Everence

Everence typically chooses to join or start dialogues based on its shareholder advocacy plan, which is periodically updated, he said.

Meyer is a member of the Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility’s climate change leadership team. The ICCR is a coalition of institutional investors who try to use their investments as catalysts for social change. Everence has been part of that coalition for over 20 years and does most of its shareholder advocacy in collaboration with other ICCR members.

A recent success Meyer cites is a two-year dialogue with an Indiana gas and electric utility that resulted in the utility agreeing to retire all its coal generation plants by 2028. As that capacity is replaced with renewable energy, NiSource’s carbon emissions will fall by more than 90 per cent.

A four-year dialogue with Hershey resulted in the company agreeing to source environmentally sustainable, certified cocoa for all its global chocolate product lines, and to strengthen its programs to eradicate child labor in the cocoa industry.

A more recent effort involves Praxis and other shareholders asking AT&T to explain how it is combating online child sexual exploitation.

Progress with companies can be slow and frustrating, he admits. “There are an unlimited number of issues that can be addressed to make the world more sustainable and just. And I know that a small policy change made by a company can affect millions of people. So, for me, it can be tough to harmonize the unlimited potential for impact through my work with the need to live a balanced life.” ◆