Press release -
Investors mobilize to support human rights in Myanmar
77 Asset managers representing over 3 trillion euros in capital are calling on companies to mitigate risks of contributions to human rights violations in Myanmar. The initiative is led by Storebrand Asset Management, in collaboration with the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, Domini and the Heartland Initiative.
As of June 9th, 77 investors from around the world have signed the Investor Statement on Human Rights and Business Activities in Myanmar.
Strength in numbers and capital
"In the last months Storebrand has been conducting due diligence on companies with operations in Myanmar to try to establish which have links to the military junta and potential human rights violations. Now, through a global mobilization of investors and capital, we are calling on all companies with links to Myanmar to take immediate action to identify and mitigate any risk of contributing to human rights harms," says Kamil Zabielski, Head of Sustainable investment at Storebrand Asset Management.
Operating in conflict areas creates risks and challenges for companies to manage and requires access to reliable data on which investors can base their decisions. Storebrand has followed the situation in Myanmar for the last decade and has divested from companies in Myanmar due to human rights concerns prior to the military coup. The purpose of the initiative is to raise awareness of the human rights situation in Myanmar and augment due diligence through collaboration.
"Sharing of resources and collaboration will make it easier for investors to engage companies and exercise more leverage. We see this initiative as an opportunity for the private sector to show leadership by assisting Myanmar’s transition to peace, justice, and democracy," Zabielski adds.
A dire situation
The coup d’état carried out by the military against Myanmar’s democratically elected government on February 1st has had dire repercussions for the people of the country. Crackdowns against pro-democracy protesters have led to hundreds of deaths and thousands more detained, tortured, and injured. The military’s ethnic cleansing campaign against the minority Rohingya community has led to over 700,000 Rohingyas having to flee the country, and charges of genocide and crimes against humanity have been brought against Myanmar and military officials.
The actions of the Myanmar military have been met with international protests, condemnations and sanctions by the United States, the European Union and many other countries, multilateral institutions, and organizations around the world. If companies do not follow suit, they are not only at risk of contributing to serious human rights violations, but also exposed to the associated legal and reputational risks affecting financial performance of the companies and their investors.
The investors call for immediate action
By signing Investor Statement on Human Rights and Business Activities in Myanmar, the investors call for all companies doing business in Myanmar to immediately undertake enhanced due diligence.
"To address and prevent human rights harms, companies across all sectors are expected to map their value chain to identify potential links to the Myanmar military and human rights violations. Furthermore, the companies are expected to take steps to mitigate any such risk, report their efforts publicly and use their leverage by participating in collective action to support human rights," says Anita Dorett, Director for the Investor Alliance for Human Rights.
Statement from Corey Klemmer, Director of Corporate Engagement at Domini Impact Investments:
“The protection of human rights, especially in high-risk areas such as Myanmar, is critical for companies and their investors - to mitigate significant operational, legal, and reputational risks to the firm, and to support the societies on which they rely for labor, consumers, and institutional support."
Statement from Sam Jones, President of the Heartland Initiative:
"Investors are increasingly demanding rights-respecting behavior by companies, especially as it impacts vulnerable populations in conflict-affected areas like Myanmar. It is encouraging that 77 signatories, representing more than 3 trillion euros in combined assets under management, recognize their role in setting expectations that companies conduct enhanced human rights due diligence and mitigate the risks associated with doing business with the military junta and its affiliated entities."
Statement from Hannah Shoesmith, Associate Director of Engagement for EOS at Federated Hermes
“We are engaging with companies on potential connections to the military junta in Myanmar. As with all our human rights engagements, we are guided by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We seek to understand each company’s particular operating context, approach to heightened due diligence and options for leverage and remedy. We support this investor statement outlining companies’ responsibilities for transparency and accountability and encourage an ongoing and constructive dialogue with all stakeholders."
Storebrand Asset Management
Storebrand Asset Management is a leading Nordic asset manager and a pioneer within the field of sustainable investments. Storebrand has approximately Euro 97 billion AUM and all assets are managed according to strict sustainability criteria.
The Investor Alliance on Human Rights
The Investor Alliance for Human Rights is a collective action platform for responsible investment that is grounded in respect for people's fundamental rights. It is a membership-based, non-profit initiative focusing on the investor responsibility to respect human rights, corporate engagements that drive responsible business conduct, and standard-setting activities that push for robust business and human rights policies.
Domini Impact Investments LLC is a women-led SEC registered investment adviser specializing exclusively in impact investing. It serves individual and institutional investors who wish to create positive social and environmental outcomes while seeking competitive financial returns. Domini apply social, environmental, and governance standards to all their investments, believing they help identify opportunities to provide strong financial rewards while also helping to create a more just and sustainable economic system.
The Heartland Initiative
Heartland Initiative, Inc. is a nonprofit practice-based research organization that promotes the fundamental rights and freedoms of people impacted by armed conflict. Heartland’s work responds to a growing need at the intersection of business and human rights, where public and private stakeholders understand that business activities can contribute to either the escalation or mitigation of conflicts and their attendant human rights violations. Through tailored learning services, Heartland works with stakeholders to develop solutions that simultaneously prevent and address human rights harms while managing the heightened risks faced by businesses and investors in conflict-affected areas.
The International business of Federated Hermes
Federated Hermes, Inc. is a leading global investment manager with $625.0 billion in assets under management as of March 31, 2021. Guided by our conviction that responsible investing is the best way to create wealth over the long term, our investment solutions span equity, fixed-income, alternative/private markets, multi-asset and liquidity management strategies. Providing world-class active investment management and engagement services to more than 11,000 institutions and intermediaries, our clients include corporations, government entities, insurance companies, foundations and endowments, banks and broker/dealers. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Federated Hermes’ nearly 2,000 employees include those in London, New York, Boston and offices worldwide. For more information, visit FederatedHermes.com.