Liz Claiborne Inc., the designer women's clothing company, recently announced it would stop buying apparel from Burma amid shareholder pressure.
Since the Burmese democratic opposition's call for economic sanctions, a number of corporations have stopped doing business in Burma - Levi Strauss & Co. stopped in 1992, and Amoco Corp. halted its operations in March.
Liz Claiborne's decision came just as Franklin Research & Development Corp., Boston, which runs $400 million in socially responsible investments, was preparing to file a shareholder resolution on behalf of itself and church investors that are members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility concerning the company's purchasing from Burmese factories.
Shareholders and activists such as the Chicago Coalition for a Democratic Burma contend that because the Burmese economy is almost entirely government-controlled, doing business there benefits the military junta.
"The decision by Liz Claiborne also puts tremendous pressure on other companies doing business in Burma. Shareholders are questioning The Limited and Pier 1 about their purchases of apparel from Burma. Eddie Bauer, a subsidiary of Spiegel Inc., is believed to be buying from Liz Claiborne's former supplier and its stores are now the target of nationwide demonstrations after company representatives refused to meet with activists," Simon Billenness, a senior analyst at Franklin Research and Development Corp., wrote in an report to be released to investors soon.
This proxy season, Unocal Corp. and PepsiCo Inc. also have received resolutions asking for withdrawal from Burma.