Investors urge tech firms to follow Intel and embrace green

A socially responsible investing firm has launched bylaw amendments at three of the world's largest technology companies in the wake of those firms' removal from a sustainable stock index.

Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle were among the 23 firms removed from the Nasdaq Global Sustainability 50 Index last fall for failing to meet at least 40 percent of the Global Reporting Iniative's metrics for transparency.

Harrington Investments has responded to these firms' removal by filing amendments that would empower the boards of directors to create sustainability committees dedicated to reducing environmental impacts at those firms.

"Clearly, voluntary environmental codes adopted by corporate management is simply a form of greenwashing to gain positive publicity for Oracle, Microsoft and Cisco," John Harrington, the president and CEO of Harrington Investments, said in a statement. "The fact that these companies were removed from the Sustainability Index last year for lack of reporting, proves that they never had any intention to pursue true sustainability."

Earlier this year, Harrington Investments worked with Intel to amend that company's corporate charter to include sustainability commitments, and making it a fiduciary duty of Intel's directors to address green issues.

As Robert Kropp wrote about Intel's move, "The implications of a legal opinion from corporate counsel agreeing that consideration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria, as well as sustainability reporting, represent a fiduciary duty for corporate Boards of Directors, could extend beyond the activities of Intel alone. As the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ponders mandatory corporate reporting of ESG criteria, the legal opinion helps form a basis for the position that such reporting is a critical factor in corporate financial performance."

Harrington said the bylaw amendments were intended to give these companies an opportunity to embrace green leadership and earn the triple bottom line benefits of more efficient, lower impact operations.

"Hopefully Microsoft, Cisco and Oracle can look at the steps taken by Intel and use them as a guide in realizing that addressing sustainability and transparency are key to the long-term success and existence of their businesses," Harrington said. "Sustainability should be inserted into the DNA of these companies as a fiduciary duty of the board of directors."

Although all three companies are active in green IT and sustainability efforts -- Cisco recently took first place in Greenpeace's Cool IT rankings and Microsoft has long been focused on green practices (even being labeled a "CSR Leader" in 2009 -- the reporting and transparency elements are what led Harrington Investments to call on the companies to refocus their efforts.

The Global Reporting Initiative has just concluded a gathering in Amsterdam to define the future of corporate reporting, and has been tracking the rise of GRI-compliant reports in our annual State of Green Business Report, finding steady growth in both the number of CSR reports filed by S&P 500 companies, but also in the percentage of those reports that are GRI-compliant, as the graphic below shows.

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