Dear Members of TIAA’s Corporate Governance and Social Responsibility Committee:
I have serious concerns about TIAA’s involvement in land grabbing, deforestation, and human rights violations through its holdings in deforestation-risk commodities and its direct acquisitions of farmland.
Massive deforestation to clear land for palm oil, pulp and paper, soy, rubber, timber and cattle is responsible for almost one quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as an epidemic of land conflicts and widespread abuses of the rights of indigenous peoples. As an investment firm that holds millions of dollars in shares in the agribusiness companies most responsible for devastating our rainforests, these issues expose you and your clients to a host of material risks.
Environmental and human rights impacts – and climate impacts above all – are increasingly recognized to drive material risks to investment. Awareness of these risks is growing quickly within the financial sector – and now is the time for you to get on board.
Leading responsible investment firms have begun to develop comprehensive policies to address deforestation risk, and I believe TIAA needs to do the same. It is both a moral and an economic imperative. You have tremendous power – and the world needs you to start using that power responsibly. I urge you to adopt a strong deforestation risk policy across all your portfolios.
In addition, given TIAA/Nuveen’s approach to farmland investment, I ask you to halt your acquisitions of farmland, especially in fragile ecosystems and areas where land title is strongly contested and to engage in an effort to return lands in the Brazilian Cerrado to local community management.