A coalition of more than 300 U.S. institutional investors recently sent letters to Business Roundtable (BRT) members, calling on them to address potential risks to company reputation and democracy by assessing their approach to political engagement and considering the Erb Principles for CPR and the CPA-Zicklin Model Code of Conduct. The broad-based investor coalition, known as the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), collectively represents more than $4 trillion in invested capital. 

The ICCR letter says: “We believe that BRT companies would benefit from a thoughtful assessment of their political spending and lobbying. We recommend two resources to help guide company policy development and decisionmaking toward more responsible political engagement.”

The Erb Principles for Corporate Political Responsibility (CPR) and the CPA-Zicklin Model Code of Conduct for Corporate Political Spending are the two recommended resources. Created in collaboration with business leaders, stakeholder groups, and experts from across the political spectrum, the Erb Principles for CPR propose a non-partisan, flexible, and principled framework to establish CPR as a new norm to reduce business risk, strengthen civic trust, and foster collaborative problem-solving. The Model Code was developed by the Center for Political Accountability and The Wharton School’s Zicklin Center for Governance and Business Ethics, with extensive input from corporate governance experts, investors, and companies. 

“BRT members believe that creating long-term value for shareholders requires creating value for customers, employees, and society,” said Elizabeth Doty, Director of the Corporate Political Responsibility Taskforce at the Erb Institute. “We developed the Erb Principles for CPR to clarify what their conviction means for responsible corporate political influence and how companies can contribute to the conditions for shared prosperity.”

Reflecting the long-held investor concern with alignment between a company’s political engagement and its stated values and mission, the ICCR letter highlights how unaligned corporate political donations may degrade democratic systems — potentially affecting free and fair elections and a healthy civic discourse that supports free speech. 

As the ICCR letter says: “Companies and investors both depend on a resilient democracy and strong rule of law to provide the economic and legal certainty that facilitates long-term market stability and allows companies to compete on the merits of their products and services. For decades, investors have sounded alarms about the strains that corporate political spending puts on our democratic institutions.” 

ICCR members include faith-based investors, asset managers, pension funds, foundations, and other long-term institutional investors. They have over 50 years of experience engaging with companies on environmental, social, and governance issues that are critical to long-term value creation, including political spending.  

Read the ICCR letter and learn more about the ICCR message to the BRT.

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