SEEJ Campaigns and a Brief History
In 1998, Earth Co, Columbia's then-only environmental group, started a working group on socially responsible investment (SRI) and became an SGB-recognized group in 1999, separating from Earth Co. In 2000, SRI became SEEJ and began to take on broader campaigns striving to make strategic and effective policy changes to support ecological sustainability, human freedom, and the struggles of indigenous and working people.
Socially Responsible Investing:
In 1999, SRI began a petition to demand that Columbia establish principles for responsible investment and presented the administration with 1 000 signatures and 25 statements of support from student groups. While the administration refused to disclose its stock portfolio it did establish a task force which eventually established Colombia's Advisory Committee to the Trustees on Socially Responsible Investing. The committee disclosed the portfolio and began accepting student input. SRI began to coordinate activist groups in annual presentations to the committee which has the power to support shareholder resolutions directed at the companies in which the university invests Students voiced their concerns on the labor practices human rights violations, and lack of environmental sustainability on the part of these companies In 2003, Barnard's Committee held its first such hearing again as a result of concerted student pressure.
SEEJ pressured most dining areas on campus to offer students the option of fair- trade coffee.
Anti CitiGroup Campaign:
Along with Rainforest Action Network SEEJ began a campaign against CitiGroup which has a contract with Columbia, due to the bank's egregious history of investment in environmentally destructive projects, including illegal logging and projects that encroach on ecologically sensitive and indigenous areas as well as its predatory lending practices. The campaign helped force Citi to negotiate and eventually establish groundbreaking comprehensive environmental standards becoming the world's first private bank to do so. Bank of America soon followed suit. SEEJ members also took part in RAN'S recent campaign against JP Morgan Chase which has an investment history similar to Citi's Last spring, due to demonstrations outside the NYC headquarters and a national day of action JPMC executives caved and agreed to establish an environmental policy as well.
United Students Against Sweatshops:
Across the world the workers who make our clothing get paid meager wages to work long hours in dangerous conditions. Workers fight these conditions however they can, but the ''race to the bottom'' in global labor standards has made it all but impossible for them to win the wages they deserve without support.
Columbia Students Against Sweatshops merged with SEEJ in 2000 and the group began to pressure the Columbia community to take a stance against the use of unfair labor practices in the factories making its logo clothing In 2000, we convinced the administration to commit to living wages and fair conditions for people making Columbia-logo apparel.
Since then some factories' health, safety, and non-discrimination standards have improved but wages continue to stagnate; in fact Columbia has no effective monitoring system to ensure that wages paid to our garment workers are adequate. In 2003, SEEJ used this commitment to ask Columbia sever a contract with Land's End for its illegal firings in El Salvador. Columbia became the second school to cut a contract and Land's End capitulated and sought employment for the fired workers.
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