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Major US pension fund divests ethical fund from Veolia

November 22, 2013
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The We Divest coalition joins workers, environmentalists, and corporate accountability organizations in congratulating pension fund giant TIAA-CREF for removing Veolia Environnement SA stock (VIE:EN Paris) from its Social Choice Funds portfolio. In July 2013, TIAA-CREF’s website showed over $1.2 million in Veolia shares for its Social Choice Funds. Today it shows zero. TIAA-CREF still holds Veolia stock in its regular accounts.

“Some of us in the socially responsible investment community are asking the question: does it make sense to own stock in a corporation that is violating international law in Palestine and committing so many environmental abuses around the world?” said Lincoln Pain, a Certified Financial Planner practitioner, specializing in socially responsible investments for over 27 years.

“TIAA-CREF made the right decision,” said Rabbi Alissa Wise, Director of Campaigns at Jewish Voice for Peace and National Coordinator of the We Divest Campaign. “Veolia cannot seriously be considered socially responsible given its infamous anti-labor practices, privatization of public resources, disastrous environmental practices, and ongoing servicing of illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian West Bank land.”

“As the largest private operator of municipal water and sewer systems in the United States, Veolia Water North America has an atrocious track-record and was kicked out of six different cities and towns in the US last year alone,” said Matt Ohloff, organizer with Food & Water Watch. “Water privatization is not socially responsible, nor is Veolia.”

“It is no coincidence that Veolia has a poor record on labor and environmental issues given its violations of international humanitarian law in Palestine. The complicity of multinationals in illegal projects in such a contested conflict zone reflects poor governance and risk management, and is often related to other corporate abuses. These companies have no place on any socially responsible investment portfolio,” said Dalit Baum, Middle East Program Director for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

Veolia has been the target of boycott and divestment campaigns worldwide by Palestine solidarity activists. Veolia was invested in bus lines on segregated West Bank roads until recently, when it ended the practice under intense worldwide pressure. However, Veolia continues its controversial support of illegal Israeli settlements. A United Nations report warned last year that that the engagement of Veolia and similar companies in the West Bank could cause “damage to a company’s public image and impact on shareholder decisions and share price, and could result in employees being criminally responsible for rights abuses.”

Following public campaigns spanning four continents, Veolia has lost or failed to secure contracts totaling more than $18 billion worldwide. Last month, a diverse coalition of environmental, labor, Palestinian rights, and social justice activists in St. Louis, Missouri forced the multinational to withdraw from bidding on a city water contract. In Boston, Massachusetts, a broad coalition of labor and community groups are fighting Veolia’s union-busting tactics since it took over a school bus contract. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Veolia is known for the role its attorney played in opposing BART unions, and others have been protesting against Veolia subcontractors’ poor labor practices. Additional campaigns in Sonoma County CA; Los Angeles, CA; Seattle, WACalifornia statewideBoston, MABaltimore, MDWashington, DC; and beyond have cast light on Veolia’s controversial practices.

November 22, 2013
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