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Corp. Advisers Pan Discrimination

University advisers speak up for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals

By Cyrus M. Mossavar-rahmani, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard’s Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (CCSR), which submits proxy votes on companies in which the University holds shares, came out strongly in favor of policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in ballots cast in the last year.

In a report that was released yesterday, the committee—made up of Harvard Corporation members Robert D. Reischauer ’63 and James R. Houghton ’58—detailed the rationale behind its proxy votes.

The CCSR was supportive of proposals to either amend or add clauses to corporate equal opportunity policies in order to include protections for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. It voted in favor of proposals at Robert Half International, AmSouth Bancorp, Expeditors International of Washington, and Leggett and Platt to adopt non-discrimination policies. It also opposed proposals to eliminate references to sexual orientation in the non-discrimination policies of Bank of America, Ford Motor, and JP MorganChase.

In general, the committee opposed or abstained on votes regarding animal welfare, disclosures of political contributions, and labeling of genetically modified foods.

The committee declined to support a proposal to call on Pfizer to stop animal testing, writing that the pharmaceutical company “already has a policy to use alternatives to animal testing where possible.”

The CCSR also declined to support proposals for more humane animal slaughter methods at Outback Steakhouse and Applebee’s, saying, “the companies purchase their chickens from suppliers and are not directly involved in animal slaughter.”

However, the committee did not let Yum! Brands—which owns KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut—off the hook. The committee supported a proposal to implement stricter animal welfare standards and to eliminate excessive use of antibiotics.

Matters new to the committee this year included forced labor at cocoa plantations, race disparities in the cost of consumer loans, the manufacture of products triggering asthma in children, and the storage of hazardous materials near communities.

The CCSR supported a proposal calling on Coca-Cola to investigate accusations of anti-union behavior in Colombia. The decision came on the heels of a of a similar vote last year in which it called on Coca-Cola to appoint an independent investigator.

The 12-member Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR)—made up of one undergraduate, four administrators, and four faculty members—is charged with researching proxy issues and passing on its non-binding recommendations to the CCSR.

The ACSR and CCSR generally act in tandem. This year, the committees disagreed on only one resolution—a proposal by Chevron to protect key natural sites. The ACSR recommended against the proposal, but the CCSR ultimately voted in favor.

The number of social-issue proposals voted on by the CCSR has increased over the years from 80 in 1997 to 130 today.

Earlier in the year, the CCSR voted to divest from its holdings in Beijing-based Sinopec Corporation, which came a year after the University divested from PetroChina.

“I worry that undergraduates tend too seldom to consider Harvard’s endowment an extension of our community, our values, and our capacity for growth,” said Matthew R. Greenfield ’08, the lone undergraduate on the ACSR.

—Staff writer Cyrus M. Mossavar-Rahmani can be reached at

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