Hearst and Fidelity Investments don’t get it, to use an overworked expression. They don’t understand that today even private companies have to be transparent about their operations if they want the public’s trust.
Instead, these two companies are models of opacity.
I’ve written about both before. Fidelity’s been the target of an aggressive, sustained divestment campaign, designed to get the mutual fund giant to sell its holdings in PetroChina and Sinopec, two Chinese oil companies doing business in Sudan and thereby helping to finance the genocide in Darfur. Fidelity recently sold some holdings in PetroChina, but it has not explained why, nor has the company responded in a meaningful way to its critics.
So Fidelity is under fire again, this time in connection with its sponsorship of presidential debates last week on CNN. As The Washington Post reported, Fidelity’s role led Eric Cohen, chairman of Fidelity Out of Sudan, to ask the candidates — several of whom have promised to divest their personal finances of Sudan-related holdings — to refuse political contributions from companies with such holdings and to decline invitations to events sponsored by firms like Fidelity.
As Susan Morgan, a campaign spokeswoman, told me by email:
Since Fidelity has made no statement or commitment regarding divestment from PetroChina and Sinopec, investors entrusting their money to Fidelity mutual funds continue to risk inadvertently investing in these companies helping to fund the genocide in Darfur.
Interestingly, CNN refused to run an commercial from the divestment campaign critical of Fidelity. That’s not going to stop the debate over Fidelity’s role from being aired. For those of you who haven’t followed the divestment campaign, there’s an excellent overview here.
Memo to Fidelity: This issue isn’t going away.
As for Hearst, I blogged at great length several months ago about the company’s almost comical unwillingness to disclose where it gets the paper that “O The Oprah Magazine” is printed on. How much is recycled? How much comes from forests that are being harvested in sustainable ways? Other magazine companies will answer these questions. Hearst won’t.
The blogpost got a fair amount of attention around the Internet, and today (to my delight!) it found its way into The New York Times, as part of an article about Rolling Stone’s pledge to print on environmentally preferable paper. But Andrew Adam Newman, the freelancer who wrote The Times story, had no more success than I did in getting a straight answer out of Hearst:
Asked by The New York Times whether Hearst was using recycled pulp in its magazines, Andrea Faville, a spokeswoman for Hearst, e-mailed what she called â€œa backgrounder on Hearstâ€™s green efforts.â€ It said the company is â€œusing more than 15 percent of post-consumer recycled fiber content across its portfolio of publications.â€
But is any of that recycled fiber going into magazines, or instead into the companyâ€™s dozens of newspapers and trade publications? â€œRight now, we donâ€™t have any info for you beyond what is in the backgrounder,â€ Ms. Faville responded by e-mail.
Hearst, which publishes Esquire, Cosmopolitan and Seventeen as well as Oprah’s mag, resides in one of New York’s greenest buildings. But the company has yet to figure out that you cannot be selectively green. To be an environmental leader, you have to be consistent–and you have to be open about your practices.
Memo to Hearst: This issue isn’t going away.