A coalition of 22 plan sponsors and investment managers issued a set of nine guidelines for major retailers to use in deciding on sites for megastores and in land procurement to avoid reputational risk and growing conflicts on environmental, legal and cultural grounds that can endanger shareholder value.
The coalition includes the $11 billion General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church, Evanston, Ill. Others joining the Christian Brothers Investment Services and Domini Social Investments in producing the guidelines include Calvert Group, Pax World Funds, Sierra Club mutual funds, Trillium Asset Management and Walden Asset Management.
"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," Julie Tanner, CBIS corporate advocacy coordinator, said in a statement. "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, Domini general counsel and director of shareholder advocacy, added in the statement: "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."