Cisco stock dumped in human rights outcry

Opinion

Cisco stock dumped in human rights outcry

Over in the States, asset management group Boston Common LLC has taken the decision to dump over 160,000 shares that it holds in sector giant Cisco over its commitment to global human rights, reports NetworkWorld.

Boston Common, bills itself as a "sustainable and responsible" investor and takes a hard line on corporate social responsibility.

"As shareholders, we urge portfolio companies to improve transparency, accountability, and attention to ESG issues," it says on its website

Since 2005 it has led a coalition of Cisco investors in a campaign to get Cisco to come clean over what it describes as "weak human rights risk management" and "poor response to investor concerns".

It claimed that at the 2010 AGM last November, Cisco failed to answer requests for engagement with shareholders, and accused the networking leviathan of fiddling with the results of proxy ballots to downplay the issue.

Explained Boston Common associate director Dawn Wolfe: "[Our] decision to divest comes after years of campaigning Cisco for greater transparency and accountability on key human rights and business development concerns.

"Freedom of expression, privacy and personal security are all critical elements in maximising network traffic. Politically and socially repressive policies related to speech and privacy has a chilling effect on users and violates universally recognised human rights. When pressed for details on how Cisco addresses these risks they come up short," she said.

Alongside many other tech industry stalwarts, Cisco has been accused in the past of allowing its hardware to be used to clamp down on internet access and dissident groups in countries such as China.

In a statement responding to Boston Common's allegations, a Cisco spokesperson told Reuters: "We have various policies, practices and procedures in place relating to human rights around the world, and believe our business practices and standards-based architecture support the benefits of internet access to information on a global basis."

This was first published in January 2011

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