The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen or LO) has announced that all of its pension funds will sell their shares of Wal-Mart stock in opposition to the “Walmartization” of wages and working conditions worldwide.
“As the company has such a bad reputation, and a directly anti-human corporate philosophy, we see no other alternative than to disqualify Wal-Mart as an object for ethically responsible investment,” said Svend S?rensen, president of one LO-affiliated pension fund.
LO includes 22 unions representing 1.5 million workers, more than half of the Danish workforce.
J?rgen Hoppe, leader of the union that represents retail workers, said that, although Wal-Mart had not yet established a dominant position in Europe, its presence was already being felt as European employers used the potential of competition from the global giant to press for concessions from workers.
So far, Wal-Mart has opened stores in just two European countries: Britain, where its subsidiary Asda is the second largest grocer, and Germany, where its stores have struggled in the context of strong antitrust regulations.
Four years ago, Domini Social Equity Fund, a U.S.-based socially responsible mutual fund, dropped Wal-Mart from its portfolio, primarily because of concerns about the company’s reliance on sweatshop labor. Others that have excluded Wal-Mart stock include Citizens Funds, the Calvert Group, and Pax World Funds. TIAA-CREF, which manages retirement funds for teachers and employees of nonprofits, has removed Wal-Mart stock from its Social Choice Equity fund, but not its other funds.
Socially responsible stock funds eliminate only the least responsible corporations, as defined by the fund’s particular criteria (e.g., no weapons or tobacco manufacturers). Another option for citizens concerned about how their investments impact their communities is Community Investing, an umbrella term for a broad range of investment vehicles that funnel capital into such things as loans for small businesses and affordable housing.