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Victory! US pension fund giant TIAA-CREF drops SodaStream stock

July 16, 2013
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Calls for Divestment Intensify as Retirement Fund Giant TIAA-CREF Drops Controversial Israeli Settlement Company

Calls for Divestment Intensify as Retirement Fund Giant TIAA-CREF Drops Controversial Israeli Settlement Company

Protests in a dozen cities nationwide tomorrow as CREF holds annual shareholder meeting

July 15, 2013 - Pension fund giant TIAA-CREF has removed the increasingly controversial Israeli company SodaStream (NASD: SODA) from its portfolio. As of March 2013, financial data posted on TIAA-CREF’s website valued shares in SodaStream at $9,444,292. According to financial data available today, it is zero.

“No matter the reason TIAA-CREF dropped SodaStream, we view this as a conscientious decision.” said Sydney Levy of the We Divest Campaign (www.wedivest.org). “While SodaStream may be a profitable investment, it is socially bankrupt, operating out of an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.”

Tomorrow, July 16th, human rights activists in over a dozen cities nationwide will be protesting at local offices of TIAA-CREF, as TIAA-CREF shareholders meet in Charlotte, North Carolina for the company’s annual shareholder meeting. The annual meeting will not include a vote on a resolution submitted by over 200 TIAA-CREF shareholders, calling on the pension fund giant to divest from companies involved in egregious human rights violations, including those companies whose products are used by the Israeli military to commit grave and systematic human rights abuses against Palestinians, and to enforce Israel’s 46-year-old military occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands. This is the second time that TIAA-CREF officials have refused to allow investors to vote on the shareholder resolution, which calls on TIAA-CREF to divest from companies such as Veolia, Caterpillar, and Northrup Grumman which profit from segregated services, home demolitions, militarized violence, and other human rights abuses.

SodaStream is the second company targeted for divestment by international human rights groups to be dropped by TIAA-CREF. In 2012, TIAA-CREF took an important step towards its claim to be a socially responsible pension fund by dropping Caterpillar, Inc. from its Social Choice fund. Caterpillar’s bulldozers have been used for countless and egregious Israeli human rights violations in occupied Palestinian Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. In that case, TIAA-CREF’s decision was based on the downgrading of Caterpillar stock by ethical investment ratings agency MSCI, which said in a statement that one of the “key factors” in Caterpillar’s downgrading was "on-going controversy associated with use of the company’s equipment in the occupied Palestinian territories."

In recent years SodaStream became the subject of international calls for boycott due to their main production facility being located in the Mishor Adumim industrial park in the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in the occupied West Bank. The move by TIAA-CREF comes as the international campaign to boycott companies operating in illegal settlements is gaining mainstream traction. In 2012, the policy-making bodies of the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church USA each voted to boycott products made in Israeli settlements.

What Others are Saying

Steve Tamari, TIAA-CREF Investor said:
“I welcome the news that as a TIAA-CREF investor, I am no longer profiting from SodaStream, whose main production facility operates in an illegal settlement on Palestinian land in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. I urge TIAA-CREF to drop the remaining companies in their portfolio profiting from confiscating Palestinian land and contributing to illegal settlement expansion. I hope in the coming year to see TIAA-CREF divest from the French multinational Veolia, which operates transportation, water-treatment, and garbage services for illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.”

Omar Barghouti, Palestinian human rights activist and founding member of the BDS movement said:
"The overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people have endorsed the boycott of SodaStream and other corporations that are implicated in Israel's occupation, settlements and other violations of international law. Those who claim that boycotting or divesting from SodaStream would hurt Palestinians are parroting a discredited argument that was proven false in apartheid South Africa and the Jim Crow South. Nothing hurts the oppressed as much as oppression does. Injustice hurts us. Occupation degrades our humanity. Palestinian civil society strongly believes that freedom, justice and equality deserve our sacrifice, but we need effective solidarity from the world to achieve our rights."

Anna Baltzer of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation said: 
“We are hopeful that TIAA-CREF has finally recognized the implications of investing in companies like Caterpillar, Inc. and SodaStream. It should not pay to violate international law and Palestinian human rights. Why then has TIAA-CREF prevented its shareholders from voting to divest from other companies that profit from the Israeli occupation?”

Andrew Dalack of the US Palestinian Community Network said:
“SodaStream insists in its marketing materials that they are ‘Building Bridges, Not Walls,’ but the truth is that it profits from a system of illegal occupation and settlements, based on walls and checkpoints that control, humiliate, and criminalize millions of people. It appears TIAA-CREF was able to see through the empty slogans and identify SodaStream as a company that in no way could be passed off as ‘for the greater good.’ We commend them for that.”

Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace said:
“It is becoming increasingly controversial, if not downright shameful, to be in any way associated with products made in illegal settlements in occupied territory. No matter TIAA-CREF’s motivations to drop SodaStream, it was the right decision for a company claiming to provide ‘financial services for the greater good.’”

More on SodaStream

1. While SodaStream for years falsely presented its products as being made in Israel, it has simultaneously and repeatedly reported to the Securities & Exchange Commission its susceptibility to boycott. In form F-1, filed October 19, 2010, SodaStream declared: "A number of political groups have called for consumer boycotts of Israeli products originating in the West Bank, including our products…For these reasons, we may in the future be required to transfer a significant portion of our manufacturing activities to a location outside of the West Bank... [which] could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.” For more on this: http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/abraham-greenhouse/risky-business-profiting-occupation

2. Instead of discontinuing a business model which profits from an illegal 46 year old military occupation, SodaStream has engaged in a massive multimillion-dollar PR campaign to obfuscate the moral and legal implications of its policies, marketing itself as “eco-friendly” and “socially responsible”. While this may have lead to a 55% increase in SodaStream’s stock between February and June of this year, it did not prevent TIAA-CREF from dropping their shares in SodaStream, much like it they did with Caterpillar in 2012.

3. Why Boycott Sodastream? Fact sheet: https://wedivest.org/post/284/flyer-why-boycott-sodastream

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We Divest is a national, coalition-led initiative by Adalah-NY, the American Friends Service Committee,Grassroots International, Jewish Voice for Peace, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and the US Palestinian Community Network.

July 16, 2013
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