Chicago Summit

Some 125-150 business, labor, community and diversity leaders attended the Century Foundation Chicago Summit on June 6. Titled "Inclusion and Industry 4.0: Forging a High-Wage Future for Chicagoland!" the summit was the third mid-west city stop and fourth overall event in the High Wage America project of The Century Foundation’s Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

Michael Frerichs, the Treasurer of Illinois, kicked off the event as the Keynote Speaker and expressed his appreciation for being invited to speak to the Summit’s participants. Treasurer Frerichs' office actively manages approximately $28 billion. Treasurer Frerichs focused on reinvesting in productive, good paying jobs in Chicagoland and the state and spoke to the growing global movement to invest responsibly.

In 2017, the Treasurer’s Office engaged companies on a broad range of sustainability issues, including environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities, through direct outreach and proxy voting. The office joined with investor coalitions to strengthen its’ impact and share resources for this important work. The Office voted on 4,060 proposals on corporate proxy ballots & engaged hundreds of companies on #sustainability issues since it launched its "Raising The Bar" initiative in Sept. 2016.

The Treasurer praised the proposed Ownership Conversion Project, which would identify successorship strategies for manufacturers with aging owners. He also spoke to several of his investment and corporate governance priorities for 2018:

  • Human Capital Management issues —Relevant to manufacturing and all businesses, given the need for reporting standards on company labor practices. The Illinois Treasury submitted an argument to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) urging that companies be required to disclose data on human capital metrics.

  • Closing the Gender and Racial Divide: Board Diversity—The Illinois Treasury joined seven Midwest institutional investors to urge local companies to shake up their uniformly white male boards of directors by adding women and minorities. Nine firms adopted policies to create a pipeline for diverse candidates and six appointed female directors.

  • Opioid Epidemic: Issues in the Supply Chain—The opioid epidemic is a complex problem and its remedy requires action by all actors in the supply chain, including firms that manufacture and distribute opioids. The Illinois Treasury is engaging companies to discuss steps to help fight the epidemic and reduce their exposure to financial, legal, and reputational risks.

  • Sustainability Fully Integrated across the Treasurer’s Office Investment Programs—The Treasurer’s Office formalized additional policies and processes to better integrate sustainability factors in the review of debt issuers, fund managers, equity holdings, and all due diligence activities.

  • Addressing Environmental Risks and Opportunities—The Illinois Treasury filed a shareholder proposal at Kaiser Aluminum to request the company issue a sustainability report. Following negotiations with the office, the company launched a website on sustainability and agreed to follow with a comprehensive report.

  • Purchased $70 million in Green and Social Impact Bonds—The Illinois Treasury purchased $70 million in green and social impact bonds, which provide an excellent return on investment while supporting important projects that aim to create a more sustainable, prosperous future.

Heartland Managing Director Tom Croft moderated a panel called: Revitalizing and Retaining Manufacturing Jobs. That panel included Victor Dickson, President and CEO of the Safer Foundation and Richard Wallace, Illinois Campaign Director for Jobs to Move America (JMA).

Dickson spoke to his involvement in the Ownership Conversion Project, and his commitment to provide a pipeline for ownership opportunities for minority entrepreneurs. Dickson has also been a staunch criminal justice advocate, supporting initiatives that transition former felons back into the manufacturing workforce. Wallace recounted the labor and community campaign to leverage public procurement contracts to win a new rail manufacturing facility in South Chicago.

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