Harrington Investments Shareholder Resolution on Human Rights

As an owner of Hewlett Packard stock, we are concerned that our company’s cooperation with foreign governments to monitor their citizens will result in expensive legal challenges to our firm and lead to unnecessary human suffering. To address these issues, we have introducing the following human rights resolutions at this year’s  shareholders meeting.

Hewlett-Packard: Establish a Board Committee on Human Rights

HP has revised its corporate charter to expand its Governance Committee responsibility to include “assessing, reporting and providing guidance to management on the human rights impacts of HP’s operations on workers, customers, suppliers and communities worldwide.”

HP Adopts Human Rights Oversight Policies in Response to Shareholder Resolution

While we welcome this move by HP, we are concerned that this action may little more than window dressing aimed at placating the company’s human rights critics.

Flickr: Courtesy of watchingfrogsboil (photo linked to author's site)

Why our resolution is necessary!

The Hewlett Packard Company has made a strategic decision to move more and more into the homeland security industry, providing governments with information systems designed for monitoring, control and surveillance. These are dangerous repressive tools, and without adopting rigorous human rights procedures, indiscriminate sales expose the company to increased reputation, legal and financial risks.

We believe that the company has not yet taken these risks seriously. Despite its declared Human Rights Policy, HP has not incorporated due diligence guidelines into its decision making. Our resolution proposes a Board Committee on Human Rights dedicated specifically to mitigating these risks. It is the necessary, responsible, first step.

Here are some Examples:

In 2011, the Wall Street Journal revealed HP bids for a city surveillance project in China. An executive VP responded “it’s not my job to understand what they’re really going to use it for.”  In November of the same year, Bloomberg reported the installation of HP equipment in the Syrian regime’s internet monitoring system. HP claimed that a partner sold the equipment, never asking for its final destination.

These examples, and more, show a lack of human rights’ due diligence procedures. For me as an Israeli, I have witnessed firsthand the ongoing complicity of HP in severe human rights violations as part of the Israeli occupation:

Here is a 2012 news report about an inauguration of a new building for an HP software development center in Beitar Illit, an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. The Human Rights community, most governments of the world (including the US) and the International Court of Justice condemn these settlements as a violation of international law and an impediment to peace. What is HP even doing there?

HP is also the main supplier of computer systems and servers to the Israeli military and the Israeli Prison Service. HP systems are installed in Israeli military checkpoints – specifically designed to control and monitor Palestinian civilian movement – and in military prisons, renowned for torture and the illegal detention of children. Finally, HP runs the Israeli Population database and ID systems, routinely used for ethnic profiling, segregation and discrimination.

In his 2012 report to the UN General Assembly, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory named HP as one of the companies complicit in severe human rights violations in the West Bank. He called upon the company “as a matter of urgency, to take transparent action to comply with […] international laws and standards” and “to conduct heightened due diligence”.

Boycott movement growing

People around the world are concerned about the repression of dissent, about their own privacy, and about corporate disregard of international standards. A company such as Hewlett Packard stands to lose more than its good reputation. The boycott movement is growing, and HP is now a primary target.

Student governments at UC Irvine, San Diego and Berkeley, at Oberlin College, and just yesterday at Loyola University, have passed resolutions calling for divestment from Hewlett Packard. Several Methodist Conferences, the Friends Fiduciary Corporation and my own organization, the AFSC, have sold off their Hewlett Packard stocks.

I have here a pledge, signed by one hundred different organizations, to not buy any HP products for as long as HP continues its complicity with the repression of Palestinians. I wish to present it to the CEO and the Board.

This is a wake-up call, and it is just the beginning. To respond to these serious risks, it is time for the Hewlett Packard Company to take its global obligations seriously. Creating a Board Committee dedicated solely to this task will show that our company is willing to move from words to implementation, and take a leading role in the industry as a responsible corporate citizen

Information provided by Dalit Baum | Director, Middle East Program | American Friends Service Committee

How to get involved

Sign this petition to stop HP from violating human rights in the occupied territories.