Dozens of institutional investors, including Catholic religious congregations, labor unions, public pensions and faith-based asset management firms, called on companies to support workers through policies to prevent severe economic hardship brought on by the new coronavirus.
The growing coalition of investors said steps such as providing emergency paid leave to all employees, prioritizing health and safety, and avoiding layoffs would protect workers.
The call came in a statement released March 26 by three leaders in the responsible investing community: Domini Impact Investments, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and Scott M. Stringer, New York City's comptroller.
At its release, 195 institutional investors representing more than $4.7 trillion in assets had signed the statement, but supporters have continued to be added since, reported the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.
The call for emergency leave should encompass part-time, temporary and subcontracted employees, the investors said. "Without paid leave, social distancing and self-isolation are not broadly possible," they said.
Saying workers should avoid exposure to the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, as much as possible, the investors suggested companies implement rotating shifts and remote work when possible; enhance protections, training and cleaning; adopt workplace health and safety guidelines offered by health care professionals; and close locations if necessary.
Maintaining employees on staff will prevent widespread unemployment that could worsen the growing financial crisis, the statement said, noting that doing so would allow companies to resume normal operations as quickly as possible.
The investors urged companies to maintain supplier and customer relationships in maintaining prompt payment for materials and services and working with customers who are facing financial challenges. The investors also said "we expect the highest level of ethical financial management and responsibility" during the current uncertain market.
In addition, they called on corporate executives to "consider measures beyond these recommendations," including child care assistance, hazard pay, help in accessing government support, employer-paid health insurance for laid-off workers and the deployment of resources to respond to the pandemic.
"While we acknowledge many of these recommendations may be out of reach, over the last several years we have seen corporations show leadership by using their power as a force for tremendous good. This leadership is critically needed as we face COVID-19 together," the statement concluded.
Among the statement's supporters are more than three dozen Catholic religious congregations of men and women and regional investment coalitions whose members are primarily Catholic institutions.
Others joining the call were the United Food and Commercial Workers, the AFL-CIO, the investment arm of the Presbyterian Church USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and several international asset management funds.