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Shareholders bring ban treaty to nuclear weapon producing companies

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In the 2021 shareholder meeting season, two nuclear weapon producing companies faced resolutions referring to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  Lockheed Martin’s shareholders voted on the resolution in April, and Northrop Grumman in May. At both shareholder meetings, the resolutions did not get majority support, but did receive enough to be submitted again in future annual meetings.

The resolutions recognised that the actual and potential human rights impacts resulting from the use of the weapons and technologies produced are likely and severe, and require heightened due diligence and transparency.  They also note that compliance with U.S law alone does not guarantee that the companies are abiding by international humanitarian and human rights laws and norms and its business practices may violate international humanitarian laws and human rights norms and standards, such as the manufacture of nuclear weapons, which are now illegal under international law following the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Lockheed Martin shareholders were told that the company’s business is connected to controversial weapons that are illegal under international law and pose legal, reputational, and regulatory risk to the Company and its investors. The Company is connected to $40 billion in contracts related to nuclear weapons. The resolution also reflected the entry into force of the  Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), and raised concerns that companies may also be required to demonstrate that they are not conducting prohibited activities in jurisdictions that ratified the Treaty, a potentially costly endeavor. Based on this information as well as other evidence about the use of Lockheed Martin products to suppress and violate human rights, the request was for Lockheed Martin to “report on its human rights due diligence process to identify, assess, prevent, mitigate, and remedy actual and potential human rights impacts”.  32% of Lockheed Martin’s shareholders voted in support of the proposal at the April 22, 2021 meeting. 

Northrop Grumman was presented with a similar request, to “publish a report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, with the results of human rights impact assessments examining the actual and potential human rights impacts associated with high-risk products and services”. At the shareholder meeting on May 19, 2021, 22% of those voting supported this resolution.

This is the first time that the TPNW has been brought before the shareholders of companies involved in nuclear weapon production. Given the responses, and the opportunity for education and engagement with the company these proposals provide, it is likely that The Sisters of Charity of Elizabeth, NJ, School Sisters of Notre Dame Cooperative Investment Fund, and Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, and Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell will consider them again.

With thanks to the Investor Advocates for Social Justice for information and assistance.