NY Officials Pressure Sochi Olympic Sponsors Over Anti-Gay Russian Laws

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.“Corporate sponsors of the Sochi Olympics have an opportunity to build their brands and their value, but they also have a responsibility to uphold the Olympics’ inclusive spirit,” said New York City Comptroller John C. Liu. “The onus is on these global corporations to use their influence, while the whole world is watching, to confront Russia’s hateful laws that target the LGBT community. If they fail to step up and speak out in support of equal rights for all, they risk damaging their reputations and their value to investors.”

“As sponsorship and broadcast revenues finance 92 percent of the costs of the Olympic games, there can be little doubt that corporate sponsors have influence over the International Olympic Committee and host countries. There is simply no justification for silence and inaction,” said Shelley Alpern, director of Social Research and Shareholder Advocacy at Clean Yield Management.

The investors urged the Olympic corporate sponsors to:

–Ensure their nondiscrimination policies are strong, inclusive and enforced globally, especially in regard to employees stationed or on location in Russia;

–Call on the leaders of the Russian Federation to rescind the laws that deprive members of Russia’s LGBT community of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and declare their commitment to equality irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity; and

–Call on the International Olympic Committee to obtain firm and express commitments from the Russian government that ensure the safety and human rights of all athletes and attendees of the Winter Games and visitors to the Games’ venues.

Signatories to the letter include Clean Yield Asset Management, Zevin Asset Management, Arjuna Capital, Harrington Investments, Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, Christopher Reynolds Foundation, Newground Social Investment, Pax World, First Affirmative Financial Network, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, Unitarian Universalist Association, Domini Social Investments, Trillium Asset Management Corporation, As You Sow Foundation, The Tides Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, The Sustainability Group at Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge, Northstar Asset Management and Calvert Group.

“Comptroller DiNapoli, Comptroller Liu and these institutional investors deserve praise for this strong action against hate and intolerance,” said Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell (D, Manhattan). “The state pension fund is leading the way by using its investment clout to tell the corporate sponsors of the Olympics that their brands and reputations are on the line if they do not speak out against Russia’s anti-LGBT laws. We must continue to raise awareness of how these laws will continue to affect investors, LGBT residents of Russia and visitors and participants in the Sochi Olympic Winter Games.”

“I commend Comptroller DiNapoli for his leadership in this important effort to pressure the Russian Federation to repeal its intolerable and unjust anti-LGBT laws,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman (D, Manhattan). “Comptroller DiNapoli, Comptroller Liu and the nineteen institutional investors joining them, are sending a strong message to major Olympic sponsors that they must take action against Russia’s discriminatory laws targeting the LGBT community. Anything less would be an abdication of their corporate social responsibility and threatens to severely damage the Olympic sponsors’ standing among consumers and shareholders.”