Interview by Ashley Kuzmech*
In this inaugural article in the new Faith and Finance Q&A series, the Pension Boards interviews the Rev. Richard Walters, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), to explore some of the social justice issues that are being addressed through the Pension Boards’ engagement and leadership in the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).
Q. Where Did Your Passion for Corporate Social Responsibility Originate?
A. When I think about CSR, it really starts with the idea that our religious faith calls us to be stewards of creation — to be responsible citizens through or involved in what I call distributive justice. This means making sure that everyone has enough.
CSR really comes out of a kind of faith-based approach to social justice work; however, many of our partners that are not faith-based organizations hold common values about the same issues the Pension Boards is working on. We all have a passion about a creating a just world for all in which companies are responsible and accountable in the ways they interact with the communities they do business in; the supply chain they have in place in terms of human rights; and in terms of environmental action to prevent climate change. We have a passion for the issues that impact people’s lives on a real important level in terms of their well-being. One example are the human rights violations that occur because of poor working conditions for supply chain workers, which also occur here in the U.S.
The passion for CSR is also driven by the dedication of people who are working alongside us, such as our partners at ICCR (Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility), of which the Pension Boards is a founding member. ICCR has about 300 faith-based groups that participate in social justice activities and shareholder activism. We divide up this corporate citizen work so that we can spread ourselves further and create impact for social good. We also leverage our ownership of shares in companies to interact directly with them about the issues that we care about. Then, we relate to our secular partners that are working on similar issues but from an activist point of view. Some of the issues we’ve had an outpouring of activity in include climate change; gun violence; private prisons, which contribute to the problems with incarceration in the U.S.; and human rights issues as it pertains to immigration detention centers.We just have a real passion around making change happen! If you look at our United Church of Christ (UCC) membership, there’s also a drive there. We are part of a progressive church that believes we should be involved in these issues. The UCC members of our benefit plans are people who have served in various capacities in the life of the church. They have been warriors in these fights, as well as in terms of preaching, teaching, and being directly involved in actions to bring about social justice in our society. UCC members resonate with this mission that we have around CSR, because they are people who have been working in the trenches on these important issues.
CSR is a passion, yes. But, it’s also a kind of a calling, particularly in these times, to be involved and active in creating a better world.
*This interview was conducted by PBUCC Summer Intern Ashley Kuzmech, a senior at Baruch College in New York City studying Human Resource Management and Sociology.