US Jewish newspaper Forward reports:
Controversy over the Israeli army’s use of Caterpillar Inc. bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes was a “key factor” in a corporate rating agency’s decision to drop the American manufacturer from its list of socially responsible companies.
The ratings agency, MSCI, downgraded Caterpillar in February, dropping it from several indices in which it lists companies with acceptable environmental, social and governance practices. Public controversy about the move erupted last week, when supporters of the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel—known as BDS—highlighted pension giant TIAA-CREF’s decision to purge Caterpillar from its socially responsible investment portfolios.
The BDS supporters trumpeted the move by TIAA-CREF, one of the nation’s best-known pension firms, as a victory for their cause.
TIAA-CREF cited MSCI’s downgrading of Caterpillar as the trigger for its decision and sought to avoid taking any direct responsibility for the move.
MSCI itself was initially vague about how important the Israel-related issue was in its decision to downgrade Caterpillar. But in a statement issued June 25, MSCI made it clear that Israel was a major factor in its decision.
“The key factors determining the rating include a January 2012 labor dispute and subsequent plant closing in Canada, an on-going controversy associated with use of the company’s equipment in the occupied Palestinian territories, management of environmental issues, and employee safety,” the statement said.
“For us, this is an unequivocal victory,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.