Shareholders of Caterpillar Inc. will have the opportunity on June 9 to cast a vote that if successful would require the company to create and adopt a global ethics code, based in part on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Fourth Geneva Convention, according to documents filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission on April 14, 2010.
The resolution was put forward by shareholders.
“Caterpillar’s current policy, the Worldwide Code of Conduct, contains no references to existing international human rights codes except for a corporate policy of non-discrimination, and aspirational goals to maintain employee health and safety. It also does not apply to company dealers whose activities can carry extensive reputational risks for Caterpillar.”
Proposal 7, contained in the document DEF 14A, suggests the company create a global code of ethics based on “Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility: Bench Marks for Measuring Business Performance,” developed by an international group of religious investors.
Caterpillar’s recommendation to the proposal is an unequivocal ‘NO.’ Among other things, Caterpillar says it ‘treats people fairly and prohibits discrimination.”
“Your Board believes that the Code of Conduct effectively articulates our long-standing support for, and continued commitment to, human rights and does not believe that implementation of this proposal is necessary or desirable as the concerns raised by the proponent are already being addressed in a meaningful way.”
Given that Caterpillar’s revenue in its Europe, Africa, and Middle East division was down by 22 percent in the first quarter of this year as compared to the same period in 2009, one could see why adopting a global human rights policy would be problematic. Obviously, an ethics policy based upon international humanitarian law would prohibit Cat, which manufactures the bulldozers Israel uses to demolish Palestinian homes and for construction of the Apartheid Wall, from selling its equipment for those purposes. I’m sure company leaders don’t want to implement any policy that would further cut into the Cat’s revenues, even if those revenues are derived from depriving Palestinians of their basic rights to a quality standard of living.
Caterpillar’s annual shareholder’s meeting is set for 1:30 p.m. on June 9 in Chicago. A protest is scheduled to take place from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Northern Trust Bank, 50 S. LaSalle Street, Chicago.
~ Kristin Szremski 05/19/2010