Corporate sponsors of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, which include Coca Cola, Proctor & Gamble, Samsung, Panasonic and McDonalds, are being urged by US investors, who control billions of dollars, to speak out against the current anti-gay propaganda laws in Russia.
Thomas Di Napoli, New York State Comptroller, stated:
“The Russian government’s discriminatory laws have cast a shadow over the Olympics. We call upon these corporate sponsors to stand up for the respect and equality enshrined in the Olympic movement, advocate for human rights and confront abuses. Taking a stand against these prejudicial laws and policies is not just the right thing to do, it protects shareholder interests and corporate reputations.”
Mr. Di Napoli manages New York State’s pension fund, which amounts to a sum in the region of $160 billion. He has written to corporate sponsors of Sochi, and is joined by 20 other investors whose total fund management amounts to €327 billion. The investors are supporting gay rights activists to call on sponsors to break their silence on the anti-gay laws.
The obligation for these companies to strive toward responsible and sustainable social policies and practices to protect shareholder value is at the heart of the recently promulgated United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The U.N. principles state that companies have an obligation to respect human rights and remedy abuses where they affect their business operations. The investors note that if these companies fail to speak out against these restrictive and intolerant laws, they threaten not only the return on their Olympic sponsorship dollars but also the value associated with the companies’brands and reputations.
Coca Cola had stated that it “does not take positions on political matters unrelated to our business”, when speaking to Ria Novosti about the matter.
The HRC (Human Rights Campaign) had already written to the Sochi sponsors asking them to publicly show condemnation for the anti-gay legislation. However, with billions already invested in Russia by these companies (Coca Cola has been building a factory for the Sochi Games, as well as its other outlets in Russia, and Proctor & Gamble also have factories there) it may take the added pressure by investors who themselves have control of billions to bring about a change of position.
According to Mr Di Napoli, the letters were sent this week to AtoS, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, General Electric, Omega (Swatch), McDonalds, Panasonic, Proctor & Gamble, Samsung and Visa.