Domini has joined human rights organizations, academics, and other social investors, and Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo in an effort to oppose government censorship and threats to privacy worldwide. Around the world, Internet and communications technology companies face requests from governments to censor and remove information, and to provide information on their users.
The Initiative is founded upon new Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy — supported by specific implementation commitments and a framework for accountability and learning — that provide a systematic approach for companies, nonprofits, investors, academics, and others to work together in resisting efforts by governments that seek to enlist companies in acts of censorship and surveillance that violate international standards.
The effort reflects more than two years of extensive engagement and negotiation by the participants. Domini joined the effort in 2006, and actively participated in the drafting of the Principles. They are designed to provide practical, meaningful guidance for companies that face government requests that violate international human rights norms. The Initiative is grounded in international human rights law, practical experience, and a commitment to transparency and accountability.
An independent nonprofit entity will oversee the activities of the Initiative, governed by a board of directors with equal representation from company and noncompany participants. The Principles and accompanying guidelines include commitments from participating companies to do the following:
- Establish greater transparency with users
- Perform human rights impact assessments
- Request the legal rationale for government actions and policies
- Train employees on human rights risks
- Challenge human rights violations
- Provide whistle-blowing mechanisms through which violations of the Principles can be reported
The companies will be held accountable to their commitments through a system of independent third-party assessments.
Adam Kanzer, Domini’s Managing Director and General Counsel, said, “This initiative represents a serious effort to wrestle with some of the most difficult challenges facing Internet and telecommunications sector companies around the world. These technologies are helping to build global communities, advance knowledge, and contribute to global broad-based wealth creation. Their long-term success is intimately connected to the fundamental human rights of the users of their products and services. We have not solved every problem, but we have built a strong foundation of trust and agreement to build upon."
The launch of the Global Network Initiative received global press coverage, including stories in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN, and BBC.
Visit the website of the Global Network Initiative to learn more.
Domini continues to challenge Cisco Systems on this issue. Our shareholder proposal, co-filed with Boston Common Asset Management, received a 32% vote at the company’s annual meeting in November 2008. Cisco is not participating in the Global Network Initiative.