Momentum continues to build in our work to demand that TIAA, the world’s largest private retirement system, implement an investment policy free of deforestation and land grabs! Over 100,000 people, including thousands of TIAA holders, have taken action demanding that TIAA respect small farmers as part of our Campaign to Get TIAA Out of Forests and Farmland.
The coalition putting pressure on TIAA is made up of environmental, human rights and farm organizations, including Grassroots International partner Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos in Brazil, Friends of the Earth, Grassroots’ partner and Via Campesina member the National Family Farm Coalition, Via Campesina member Rural Coalition, ActionAid USA, Sum of Us, and a number of other organizations including FIAN International and FIAN Sweden.
As of April 20, there are 86,811 signatories from the general public and 14,670 TIAA client signatories — a total of 101,481 individuals who want to see urgent action on the concerns we have raised. Over 1,700 of those signers found the petition via Grassroots International. Faculty from over 151 different universities signed the petitions, and the campaign is endorsed by more than 50 civil society organizations from around the world.
Because TIAA prides itself on upholding socially responsible values and says it’s particularly interested in hearing from clients, we believe that pressure from account holders and the public will help them divest from the several hundred million dollars they currently have invested in land grabbing and deforestation that has resulted in human rights violations around the world.
On April 20 and 21, TIAA clients did local petition delivery actions in several different cities including Los Angeles, California; Iowa City, Iowa; Chicago, Illinois; Madison, Wisconsin; Washington, DC; Bethesda, Maryland; New York City and upstate New York. At our fun-filled petition delivery action at TIAA’s headquarters in New York City, various members of our coalition spoke, including Jeff Conant of Friends of the Earth US, Doug Hertzler of ActionAid USA, Maria Luisa Mendonça of the Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos, and TIAA clients (and Grassroots supporters) CUNY Professor Emeritus Nancy Romer and Rutgers Professor Nancy Holmstrom. Read coverage of the New York action from Institutional Investor.
Our growing petition campaign builds on the momentum from a huge July 2016 victory by Brazil’s social movements. Last year, they stopped a land grab larger than the area of Los Angeles. Read more about this from Grassroots partner Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos, via GRAIN. The state court ruled that a Brazilian businessman who sold lands to TIAA had acquired those lands illegally, preventing the eviction of thousands of small-scale farmers and community members who have been living on the more than 306,000 acres of land in the Brazilian state of Piaui. The TIAA-CREF Global Agriculture LLC fund, which manages funds on behalf of pension funds in the US, Canada, Germany, and Sweden, is one of the leading foreign investors in Brazilian farmland. Read more about that victory in our earlier blog post, and check out this coverage from NPR and from the New York Times.
- Refrain from further investment and divest from land acquisitions that contribute to the displacement of local community members and family farmers, deforestation, and further climate change;
- Disclose information about all farmland and palm oil investments;
- Commit to a Deforestation and Land Grab-Free investment policy that includes adhering to four pillars of responsible investment and excludes investments in companies that don’t meet this policy.
Stay tuned for more updates as our campaign momentum continues to build.