August 25, 2016

If you sit on the board of a publicly traded company, there is only one time of year when you must face your shareholders. For most companies, that time is at the spring annual meeting. Since the 1960’s, shareholders have raised key issues of concern at these meetings, from napalm production to racial discrimination to climate change. On behalf of our fund shareholders, we have submitted more than 250 shareholder proposals over the past 22 years, ensuring that your voice is heard.

The shareholder proposal is a tool to help us persuade companies to see our point of view. They are conversation starters that get executives’ attention, and hold it long enough for us to make our case and, hopefully, effect change. This year, these conversations led to agreements with Best Buy, First Solar, and Target. We also worked with our colleagues at Clean Yield Asset Management to withdraw our proposal at Whole Foods. You can read more about these agreements, or download our Social Impact Update for the First Quarter.

When we are unable to reach agreement, the process reaches a public stage. Our proposal is published in the corporate proxy statement and then put to a vote at the annual meeting. There, we are provided the opportunity to share our views with shareholders, senior management and the board of directors in a brief speech. This season, seven of our proposals went to a vote.

Domini Proposals that Went to a Vote this Season

3M De-link executive compensation incentives from share buybacks 6%


Indirect political contributions disclosure

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Sustainability reporting


Political lobbying disclosure

Verizon Communications

Indirect political contributions disclosure

Amazon* Sustainability Reporting 27%
UPS* Political lobbying disclosure 23%
*Domini is serving in a supporting role in these engagements. 

The Chipotle annual meeting was a lively one, following a nationwide rash of e-coli and norovirus outbreaks that has battered confidence in the brand. Our speech began with a reminder that issues of sustainability, including decent working conditions and healthy ecosystems, are key to the long-term success of this company. After several years, however, the company still fails to provide comprehensive information to help us understand how it is managing its key sustainability risks. Chipotle says they’d rather do the work than tout their successes. Our speech sought to educate the Board about the critical importance of sustainability reporting to risk management:

Sustainability reporting is about accountability, not marketing. 
It is a key part of getting the job done.

We were told that Chipotle will be releasing more information around sustainability and that we will be happy with the results. Our proposal’s strong 43% vote should send a strong signal that our message resonates with the company’s shareholders.

To read more about our current and past engagements, read our Second Quarter Social Impact Update and visit our Social Impact Update Archive.

August 03, 2016

The Domini Social Bond seeks to have a positive impact across multiple key themes, including affordable housing, education and climate mitigation. In the second quarter, securities Domini characterizes as “high impact” represented 14.7% of the Fund’s total portfolio, including the following two examples, which were added to the portfolio during the quarter.

Public Health

In the second quarter, the Fund purchased a bond issued by the Indiana Finance Authority. Proceeds from this bond will finance construction of a new public mental health care facility, the Neuro-Diagnostic Institute and Advance Treatment Center, for medically underserved populations in the state. Within the last 50 years, Indiana’s supply of inpatient psychiatric beds declined significantly from 6,000 to 800 in 13 state-operated facilities for patients with mental health and developmental disabilities. The new facility will be Indiana’s flagship mental health facility for those with mental illness and addictions.

Climate Mitigation

The Fund holds a general obligation green bond issued by the State of Massachusetts. Proceeds from this bond are used for climate adaptation and mitigation, including storm water management, energy efficiency and conservation in state buildings, open space protection, habitat restoration and preservation, and environmental remediation and river revitalization projects throughout Massachusetts. In 2013, Massachusetts became the first state to issue a green bond. The state has provided increasingly transparent reports each year to allow investors to measure the environmental impact of these issuances. 

February 11, 2016

Fixed-income investments provide an important opportunity to create public goods, address a wide range of economic disparities in our society, and to fill certain capital gaps – funding needs that have often received insufficient attention from investors. We seek to address some of these disparities through the investments of the Domini Social Bond Fund, while simultaneously seeking to achieve competitive returns for our Fund’s investors.

The following provides an overview of the social and environmental objectives of the Fund, particularly those addressing access to healthcare, climate change and affordable housing.

Standard Setting by Asset Class

Stock ownership offers the opportunity to set standards for corporate behavior and to influence management through the exercise of shareholder rights. Fixed income investments offer a different set of opportunities for long-term, lasting impact.

If you think of a bond as a loan, the key questions for responsible lenders should be: To whom am I loaning my money and for what purpose? Despite some of the complex details of the fixed income markets, we believe these are the threshold questions that responsible investors should ask.

Domini’s Global Investment Standards are directed towards two long-term goals: universal human dignity and the preservation and enrichment of the environment. The standards applied to the Domini Social Bond Fund’s portfolio focus on three key themes:

  • Increasing access to capital for those historically underserved by the mainstream financial community
  • Creating public goods for those most in need
  • Filling capital gaps left by current financial practice

These three themes flow from our belief that healthy economies must be built on a strong foundation of fairness and opportunity for all.

We look to diversify our holdings in the Fund across a broad range of social issues, including affordable housing, small business development, education, community revitalization, rural economic development, the environment, and health care.

Below, we provide examples of several types of fixed income investments and the standards we utilize to select the Fund’s holdings.  

Financing Governments

Governments around the world issue bonds (or “debt”) to finance a wide variety of public goods including education, infrastructure, national defense, the judiciary and social welfare. Although sovereign debt is issued to finance such public goods, debt raised by governments with a history of corruption can be misallocated and misused at the expense of the well-being of the nation and their own citizens.

We therefore use indicators of political freedom and corruption, including Transparency International’s global corruption index, to eliminate from consideration certain countries’ bonds. We use these threshold indicators to help us to identify a country’s ability and willingness to utilize the proceeds of these offerings for proper purposes.

In addition, we will not invest in debt issued by certain “tax haven” jurisdictions -- countries characterized by low or no taxes, financial secrecy laws, and light regulation. Tax havens can help to facilitate criminal activity, including allowing dictators to shelter embezzled funds, and wide scale tax avoidance by corporations and wealthy individuals. Tax havens foster global economic inequality, which is destabilizing to the financial markets and to society.

We do not invest in U.S. Treasuries or Russian government debt, as these instruments partially finance the maintenance of these countries’ nuclear weapons arsenals. The United States and Russia possess over 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads. We believe they carry a special obligation to eliminate this global threat.

Municipal Bonds

We generally consider municipal bonds – debt issued by states, cities or counties or other quasi-public organizations-- to be closely aligned with our investment objectives, particularly when they are issued by jurisdictions with below-average resources. They can help to finance the creation of substantial public goods, such as transportation infrastructure, educational facilities, brownfield redevelopment, technical assistance for small enterprises, and other services needed to close the gap between these localities and the rest of society.

Municipal bonds can also help to ensure broad access to environmentally beneficial technologies to all members of society. We therefore look to invest in municipal bonds that generate environmentally positive impacts for underserved communities. Municipal issuers have a key role to play in terms of climate adaptation, disaster prevention and recovery. We are seeking to purchase these types of bonds as well.

We will seek to avoid purchasing the relatively few government-issued bonds that are explicitly issued to finance the development of projects, such as nuclear power plants or casinos, which are fundamentally misaligned with our investment objectives.

Affordable Housing

The Domini Social Bond Fund has maintained a long-term commitment to affordable housing, which the Fund supports primarily through the purchase of securities backed by pools of mortgages.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two U.S. government-sponsored entities, play a particularly prominent role in increasing access to affordable housing and sustaining the housing recovery in this country. Among the range of debt instruments they offer, those targeted to low income neighborhoods, low-income borrowers, multi-family housing or specific community revitalization projects have a particularly direct social impact. Also, these institutions have specific programs to help homeowners stay in their homes or otherwise avoid foreclosure. These efforts have helped to stabilize neighborhoods, home prices, and the housing market.

Green Bonds

Green Bonds are designed to finance projects and activities that address climate change or serve other environmentally beneficial purposes.  These environmentally themed bonds are rapidly growing as a new asset class, with issuers including supranational banks, governments, and corporate entities. The market for green bonds more than tripled in 2014, rising from only $3-5 billion per year between 2007 and 2012 to $39 billion in 2014.

Today, we are cautiously optimistic about the development of this new asset class. The stakes are high, however, as this market develops. We are concerned, for example, that an overly aggressive use of the word “green” could conceal environmentally harmful impacts, threatening the credibility of this important avenue for financing critical unmet environmental needs. We therefore established our own guidelines to identify appropriate green bonds for the Fund, considering the social and environmental record of the issuer as well as the specific purpose of the bond.  

Our Approach to Green Bonds

The following are some of the key questions Domini asks when evaluating green bonds:

  • Who benefits from the proceeds of the bond? We favor investments that generate positive impacts for people and communities in need, with a special focus on vulnerable groups, including low-income populations, minorities, and immigrants.
  • Can the proceeds from the bond contribute to innovations that address serious sustainability challenges? We favor investments such as those mitigating the impacts of fossil fuels in energy-intensive industries, promoting energy efficiency, or otherwise addressing environmental and social justice issues.
  • What is the quality of the issuer’s relations with communities, customers, employees, suppliers and the environment? Does the issuer maintain credible due diligence processes to address environmental and social risks?

We will seek to avoid the following:

  • Bonds that finance projects with substantial sustainability concerns such as first-generation biofuels, waste-to-energy plants using toxic substances, or projects that prolong fossil fuel dependence such as carbon capture sequestration or refurbishment of coal power plants.
  • Bonds issued to finance nuclear power, activities related to the mining of coal or uranium, or the production of weapons, tobacco, alcohol or gambling.​

Green Buildings

Significant capital will be needed to finance the transition to a low carbon economy and adapt to the physical impacts of climate change. For example, while current investments in clean energy alone are approximately $250 billion per year, the International Energy Agency has estimated that limiting the increase in global temperature to two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels requires average additional investments in clean energy of at least $1 trillion per year between now and 2050.

We believe that the real estate industry is in a unique position to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency improvements that are low cost and that create value within the underlying asset. We have therefore purchased several bonds designed to finance green buildings. In particular, we are looking for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, a comprehensive green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices.

February 11, 2016

The Domini Social Bond Fund seeks to play a positive role in the economic development of communities, focusing on key themes, including affordable housing, education and climate mitigation. In the fourth quarter, securities Domini characterizes as “high impact” represented 15.5% of the Fund’s total portfolio, including the following examples.

Affordable Housing

The Fund has maintained a long-term commitment to affordable housing, primarily through the purchase of securities backed by pools of mortgages. In particular, we favor Fannie Mae’s DUS bonds backed by a substantial percentage of units or loans to construct or refinance low-income and very low-income family housing. In our judgement, “substantial” means above 50% of units for low income, and above 30% of units for very low-income residents.

Public Health

The Fund owns a number of bonds focused on providing high quality healthcare to low-income and at-risk populations. One such bond is issued by City of Hope, a nonprofit public benefits corporation operating a specialty hospital and a number of research facilities and medical schools with a focus on cancer, diabetes treatments and HIV/AIDs prevention.

Climate Mitigation

In November, the Fund purchased bonds issued by Southern Power Company to finance existing or planned solar and wind power generation facilities in the U.S. Although this bond raised some controversy – Southern Power’s corporate parent is a large user of coal and owns nuclear power plants - the issuer, Southern Power Company, derives 9GW of its total power output from renewables and gas burning facilities and does not burn coal or deal in nuclear power. Although the parent company is ineligible for our portfolios, we chose to purchase this bond due to the urgent need to finance renewable energy and stabilize the global climate. Our purchase is also a sign of support for other utilities, which are responsible for over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., to transition their generation mix to lower-carbon fuel sources.

October 31, 2013

By Amy Domini, CEO and Founder

Originally appeared in The Intelligent Optimist (November/December 2013)

One of the truly humiliating experiences of aging is getting to see just how wrong you can be. I was a big fan of David Korten’s book, When Corporations Rule the World, when it was first published in 1995. So when it was was reissued in 2001 with new concepts added I bought and read it at once. My response: “God bless the man; he is a hopeless dreamer.”

How wrong I was. In his re-released edition, Korten argued that only a vibrant and concerted movement to celebrate and support locally owned businesses could sustain a healthy economic life for most of us. He wrote that although large corporations are good at selling a lot of a product, they squash the neighborhood vendors and fail to provide the local basketball teams with bus money. I agreed with that much. But what I could not envision was that people would shift their habits to support locally owned businesses and locally sourced products. That just seemed too farfetched.

But this is a new world, and localism, as it is called, has taken hold. As I pass a farm stand in South Carolina, the “certified South Carolina produce sold” sign urges me in. As I walk to the subway stop in my neighborhood, I pass five “locally owned and operated” signs in windows. In Kentucky, I see “Kentucky Proud” signs to announce the local nature of the business inside. Even at the large chain supermarket where I shop, “locally grown” signs loom over vegetables.

This is an important trend. We always had the tourist who insisted on Maine lobster or Vermont maple syrup to enrich their traveling experiences, more as a memento than a movement. This is something else. The shopper at the locally owned pharmacy is saying that they get it, that they choose to support the local family that has, in turn, been serving the community, supporting the local elementary school spelling bee and keeping the developmentally disabled son of a neighbor employed stacking shelves. And if the toothpaste costs 20 cents more (simply because the local pharmacist can’t benefit from scale the way the majors can), the customer doesn’t see it as a rip-off but as a fair trade.

Some years ago, I wrote about the slow food movement, wherein advocates urge us to source locally, organically and humanely. They are asking us to prepare traditional recipes and to take the time to enjoy the meal. I wrote that it was a subversive trend. While it was fun, it taught us about what it was not, and it was not industrial agri-business. It helped remind us that there was something precious in the simpler, older ways. Like slow food, localism teaches us something about what it is not. It teaches us to look more broadly at the ecosystem within which we get goods and services and to shop in ways that more directly lead to the creation of communities in which we want to live.

Localism seems to have taken hold because it speaks to something fundamental about the way humans want to live. We want to feel as though we are part of a community, whether it is our block in the big city or the rural county we call home. Our communities offer resources to finance our lives, that allow us to enjoy dignity, common respect and companionship with our shopkeepers, our public servants and our neighbors. These resources don’t easily grow out of minimum wage jobs at big box stores, but they are immediately tangible at the local market where we stop and chat about the new stoplight in town while we pick up a carton of milk.

As I think about the larger implications of localism, I see nothing but positives. It isn’t like being a fan of your hometown team, fostering resentment and competition. Localism in South Carolina isn’t better or worse than localism in Massachusetts. I enjoy the shared commitment to community that localism means everywhere I find it. Rather than fragmenting us, going local seems to be a way of making us all part of something big.

I keep hoping I’ll become wise enough to recognize a great thought when I see it, but I’m still waiting. Meanwhile, I’ll have to satisfy myself with a quiet apology to David Korten for ever having thought he was a fluffy, softhearted soul instead of the visionary that he is.

February 04, 2013

The Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) is a leader in the fight to end abuses by “payday lenders” – small businesses that provide the working poor with advances on their pay - checks, generally at exorbitant fees that can trap borrowers in cycles of debt. A number of large banks are now offering similar services. Working closely with CRL, we filed a share - holder proposal with US Bancorp to address concerns relating to the bank’s “checking account advance” program, which allows customers to borrow against their next paycheck, for a 10% fee. If used repeatedly, this can be an extremely expensive loan, although the fee is lower than traditional payday lenders.

Our proposal prompted an informative dialogue with bank executives, culminating in an agreement to withdraw our proposal in exchange for continuing discussions and the bank’s commitment to publicly address how it is mitigating the potential risks of its service.

August 31, 2012

By Amy Domini, CEO and Founder

Originally Appeared in The Intelligent Optimist (September/October 2012)

Recently, I found it necessary to be part of what is euphemistically called “an intervention”: intervening in someone’s life to try to stop self-destructive behavior and get the person on the road to recovery. Sadly, the person involved, someone who is dear to me, drank for two straight days before I figured out that we had a problem. It is remarkable how easy it is for a determined addict to cover their tracks.

But this is not a tale of gloom. My friend is in a program at present. That program will help to allow sobriety to return. It may also assist in building a resolve to conquer the demons that clearly have had dominance of late. After that comes a lifetime of work, and that’s what I have been studying. That’s where the hope comes in.

From what I can find, a key aspect to recovery is acknowledging that there is logic to the universe that is beyond the individual. This logic is often called God, and a lot of recovery programs speak of giving yourself over to God. It is also called science, harmony, your higher power and a good many other things. Apparently, when the addict acknowledges this larger logic, he or she is able to more easily defeat the smaller demon.

This reminded me of a concept I’d recently heard about. Rabbi Arthur Wascow is a man whose religion has led him to a lifetime of fighting for the disempowered. He spoke of YHWH, or Yahweh. The original Hebrew word is never to be pronounced. This is made clear by giving it no vowels, rendering the letters unpronounceable. But it is also a core teaching that the word is too sacred to speak aloud. The rabbi had his audience attempt to sound those letters, YHWH. What came out sounded like blowing.

It is a beautiful concept, that the deity is expressed as breath, which is essential to life. Taking it further, all animals breathe. Actually, plants breathe as well. And then the winds that form as the planet turns sustain the life below. Even the more distant sun and other stars fit into this magical breath. As Rabbi Wascow spoke, I could easily see a single, breathing universality.

Sometimes, in a yoga class, I’ve spent time making that YHWH sound, pacing my own motion, even heartbeat to it. I never had thought of it as universal. That is probably because it is also centering. It helps the yoga practitioner to deepen their pose as it exercises the lungs. Do all the ancient wisdoms hold the sound of breath as a central concept?

I thought of all this as I thought of my dear one. My first action after the act of getting help had been to put my lips together and blow. Now that I’ve done some reading and some thinking, I wonder if I had known I was uttering a prayer of sorts.

The past few days, I’ve learned a lot about how to help when the treatment ends. It is important that many of us lend support. We will organize ourselves to take on tasks, perhaps reading groups, perhaps drawing classes, perhaps sailing. We will find means of being present. We know that an addict cannot solve addiction, but can live with it and without the alcohol. We will help make that new life fun. In doing so it will make my life more fun. It will enrich me.

I know that a lot of people, probably most people, have trouble with the concept of a “personal” God, or some deity that deals with you one to one. That’s a part of recovery that doesn’t seem easy to swallow. But the concept of a universal breath seems very easy to give one’s self to. Wikipedia says that YHWH is probably related to a prayer that means “that which creates” (I took out gender).

If addiction recovery has to do with strong community and the embracing of that which creates, then it seems achievable. If it is achievable, then I can breathe. I find myself pursing my lips, blowing softly, feeling the relief and hope. I’m sad for my friend and the relations involved, but passing through this has caused me to do a good deal of thinking. I think it was time.

People sometimes ask why I don’t invest in liquor company stocks. I don’t know, maybe I’m being a bit puritanical. But the pervasiveness of alcohol in our society comes with high human cost. And when you add social pressure, slick advertising and relentless cheerfulness, drinking can lead to addiction and misery. Myself, I’d rather take a deep breath.

May 01, 2012

By Amy Domini, CEO and Founder

Originally Appeared in Ode Magazine (May/June 2012)

Sometimes I hear a casual comment, and it nearly consumes me. This happened recently, costing me a full day of research. I was sitting on a yoga mat waiting for a “gentle” class to start, when the conversation taking place next to me drifted into my thoughts.

One woman was talking about having been a stay-at-home mom for several years and how slow the process was getting back into meaningful work. She had my full sympathy as she discussed the passion she had for nutrition, particularly for schoolchildren. I almost joined the conversation but was glad I hadn’t when she announced, “I mostly work with private schools. Well, really, those kids are the ones that will graduate and make a success of life and be able to give back.”

I was rocked back on my heels. I’ve read an awful lot about the problems our schools face, but as the daughter of one public school teacher and the stepmother of another, I felt her statement to be horribly blind. I was upset by the idea that the millions who attend public schools had no hope, but I didn’t have all the facts to know if she was really wrong.

Does public education hurt or help success? And what did success mean to my fellow yoga student? I guess she probably meant material success. And so my research began. I started with the 10 largest publicly traded companies in America. Despite hours of phone calls, I was unable to find all the data I wanted, but I did find that only one CEO of these 10 large companies definitely went to a private high school. Five definitely attended public high schools. Specifically, I learned that Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, son of a shipyard worker, graduated from Robertsdale High School in Alabama. Exxon Mobil’s CEO, Rex Tillerson, graduated from Huntsville High School in Texas. And Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric, graduated from Finneytown High School in Ohio.

By this point, I was filled with righteous indignation. I decided to look into U.S. Senators on the theory that maybe being able to give back meant not corporate power but political power. The chairs of the standing committees are the most powerful. The Appropriations Committee is probably the single most important, since it decides how federal funds will be spent. Daniel Inouye, its chairman, is a graduate of President William McKinley High School in Hawaii. Ah, you say, but what about the ranking Republican, Thad Cochran? He graduated valedictorian from Byram High School near Jackson, Mississippi.

And while I was on it, Forbes magazine’s richest 400 were worth a look. It seems that of the top 20, the very richest are about half self-made and half born that way. Self- made billionaire Warren Buffett, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Oracle founder Larry Ellison graduated from public high schools. The richest of all, Bill Gates, did attend a private school. Well, suffice it to say that our public schools have served the nation well, if graduating people who become financial or political successes is your guide. Now this isn’t meant to be a slam on private schools, nor is it praise for public ones. It is meant to say, don’t judge too quickly.

In thinking over my reaction, I realized that my annoyance with my yoga neighbor’s comment was tied to a feeling that it was terribly unfair. I will grant you that our nation’s founders created educational institutions largely out of a belief that each individual needed to read the word of God in order to feel His purpose. It wasn’t until the decade following 1837 that Horace Mann introduced a system of schools that used grades and offered uniform education across the towns of Massachusetts. In fact, mandatory education was only a dream until 1918. And look at the 90 years since then. The United States has been a powerhouse of innovation and success. Freed from the historical confines of breeding, the non-elite had the doors opened to them, and in turn sought fortunes and built much.

The victory of universal education is less than 100 years old in this nation. It has succeeded beyond its founders’ imaginings. Let’s not dismiss the majesty of it. Let’s show some pride.

July 11, 2005

New York, NY – In the wake of dozens of often bitter community-level controversies across the United States and Mexico focused on the sites selected for “mega stores,” Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc. (CBIS) and Domini Social Investments (Domini) today issued a set of nine guidelines for major retailers to use in making decisions about store site locations, land procurement and leasing.  In addition to CBIS and Domini, 20 institutional investors and mutual fund families representing $33 billion in assets under management support the guidelines.

Download Outside the Box: Guidelines for Retail Store Siting (in PDF format).

The guidelines recommended today by CBIS/Domini urge major retailers to embrace environmental stewardship; public disclosure of siting policies; advance consultation with affected communities; respect for Indigenous cultures; protection of cultural heritage; and adherence to “smart growth” practices.  While companies are encouraged to adapt the guidelines to suit their unique business models, the report strongly recommends that all retailers should have a clearly formulated, well-monitored and effective policy for assessing and mitigating social and environmental risks associated with store siting.  The report also contains dozens of examples of past controversies, some positive cases, and many suggestions and resources that companies may use to minimize future conflicts.
Julie Tanner, Corporate Advocacy Coordinator for CBIS, said, “Store siting is such a central component of a retailer’s business that companies should have guidelines to avoid controversies that can endanger shareholder value.  These conflicts can damage a company’s reputation and impact consumer confidence; they may also lead to financial liabilities from unforeseen events and increase legislative and legal risks.  As retailers expand throughout the U.S. and abroad, we believe they must take proactive steps to engage with communities and ensure that their cultural and environmental heritage remains intact.”
Adam Kanzer, General Counsel and Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Domini, said, "Big-box retailers have encountered resistance to their growth by not thoroughly evaluating these issues. Companies have damaged their relations with communities by contributing to urban sprawl, siting stores on land sacred to Indigenous peoples, and circumventing the open market by acquiring land through eminent domain proceedings.  We believe these problems can be avoided. We offer these guidelines to companies seeking to find common ground with communities."
The report includes examples of how retailers have handled store siting issues, including the following:
Community Relations: To restrict large-scale retail development, Dunkirk, Maryland, imposed a limit on the size of stores. In what some residents believed was an attempt to bypass the cap, this year Wal-Mart proposed building two stores in Dunkirk, side-by-side. While each store would meet the size limit imposed by the law, together the two buildings would exceed it by 30 percent.
Indigenous Peoples’ Rights: In October 2004, a Wal-Mart in Hawaii opened amid protests from Indigenous Hawaiians seeking prompt reburial of the remains of 44 of their ancestors that had been unearthed during the store’s construction. The company had encountered other controversies related to Indigenous peoples’ heritage in Tennessee and New York.
Eminent Domain: In recent years, a number of private property owners have filed lawsuits or mounted protests in opposition to plans by towns and cities to seize land for sale to large retailers, including Costco, Home Depot, Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond. In one such instance in New Rochelle, New York, in 2001, residents defeated city plans to condemn a small suburban neighborhood to make way for an IKEA store. This issue is likely to continue to affect retailers, despite the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the legality of using eminent domain for economic development.  Communities may still be opposed to the practice, and the Court was clear that states may still enact laws limiting its use.
Smart Growth: In late 2005, Home Depot will open a store on the site of a former concrete plant in Placerville, California.  The company has restored the bed of a creek that flowed through the property, landscaped its banks with native plants, provided walkways and bridges for pedestrian access, and designed the store’s façade to blend in with the California foothill community. The company was praised for revitalizing an existing business district and for not building on the outskirts of town.
Disclosure of policy and siting plans: Target includes a short section on “Sustainable Real Estate Development & Design” in its 2004 Social Responsibility Report. It notes that the company conducts environmental due diligence when acquiring property, that it seeks to site stores when possible on environmentally restored properties, and that it intends to consult with communities and local planning commissions early in the project stage.
The nine guidelines are supported by the following organizations, institutional investors and mutual fund families representing $33 billion in assets under management:

  • Boston Common Asset Management
  • Calvert Group
  • Catholic Healthcare West
  • Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • General Board of Pension and Health Benefits United Methodist Church
  • Program Directors for Energy & Environment and Contract Supplier and Human Rights Working Groups of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
  • Maryknoll Sisters
  • NorthStar Asset Management, Inc.
  • Progressive Investment Management
  • Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament Social Justice Office
  • Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
  • Office of Peace and Justice
  • Sisters of St. Joseph, Nazareth, Michigan
  • Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia
  • Pax World Funds
  • Sierra Club Mutual Funds
  • The Ethical Funds Company
  • The Oneida Trust Committee of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin
  • Trillium Asset Management
  • Walden Asset Management

View the CBIS/Domini full report, Outside the Box: Guidelines for Retail Store Siting (in PDF format). The report was written by Julie Tanner, of CBIS, and Kimberly Gladman, of Domini.