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Inclusive Development International published an article on complaints filed against MSCI, FTSE Russell and S&P Dow Jones Indices, for

“violating the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct by promoting ESG-labeled investment in dozens of companies linked to Myanmar’s military. This is according to complaints filed this week by Inclusive Development International, Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma) and Blood Money Campaign of Myanmar (BMC). The complaints were submitted to the U.S.U.K. and Dutch National Contact Points for Responsible Business Conduct, which are government offices tasked with handling complaints alleging noncompliance with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.”

The article also names other firms as well:

“ESG-labeled investment funds managed by Blackrock, Vanguard, State Street and others, which are modeled on indexes created by MSCI, FTSE Russell and S&P Dow Jones Indices, own at least $13 billion worth of shares in dozens of companies that maintain [ties to Myanmar’s military].”

Two interesting aspects of the complaints:

  • they aren’t lawsuits, as the OECD Guidelines are just that – Guidelines. Unless they are directly incorporated into national laws, they aren’t legally enforceable.
  • with all the emphasis on climate matters, we haven’t seen many complaints against financial companies, investors and funds for human rights matters.

It is worth monitoring what happens with these complaints. Maybe they go nowhere and die on the vine – or they could elevate the importance of and risk associated with conforming to OECD Guidelines.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile