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THREAT FROM TOXIC CHINESE IMPORTS REQUIRES STEPPED UP CORPORATE COMMITMENT WARNS Investor Environmental Health Network

Investment Managers Concerned About the Health Risks from Corporate Toxics Policies Post Video and Audio Webcasts Advising Investors and Companies Regarding Toxic Products and China

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 11, 2007. According to expert briefings for the financial community released via webcast today by The Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN), it will take more than new US-China trade agreements on product safety to stem the tide of toxic products on US markets.  The video and audio briefings stress the need for proactive engagement by companies and investors and are available here.

IEHN believes that US companies outsourcing to Asia need to play a more active on-the-ground role to provide the information and resources essential for manufacturing practices that are safer for workers, and that produce products that are not toxic for American consumers.

IEHN Executive Director Richard Liroff said: “Getting adequate regulatory systems in China will take years, especially at the furthest reaches of the many-layers-deep Chinese supply chain.  In addition, a new US-China agreement which requires Chinese exports to meet US standards will not eliminate the use of lead, endocrine disrupting compounds, developmental toxicants and many other chemicals currently allowed in various products under existing US regulations.”

US investors concerned with these issues recently contacted 10 toy and licensing companies doing business in Asia, focusing on how well they are monitoring the safety of toys and working conditions along the toy supply chain. This initiative, led by As You Sow Foundation (an IEHN member), builds on a broader, decade-long engagement with companies under the auspices of the Contract Supplier Working Group of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a nonprofit coalition of 275 faith-based institutional investors..

About the Webcasts

The commentaries published today at www.iehn.org apprise investors and US companies of the ongoing risks and opportunities associated with products produced in China. The briefings are being released as the US and China put the finishing touches on two agreements intended to protect the US from tainted products from China. But according to the webcasts, the dynamics of Chinese supply chains are not likely to change quickly without direct intervention from US companies. US companies and investors doing business in Asia will need to make direct investments in training, technical support and product development partnerships with Asian companies if they hope to bring problem free products to US markets.

A video webcast, “Product Toxicity and China: Insights for Investors and Companies,” features Melissa Brown, executive director of the Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia (ASRiA). Brown has nearly two decades' experience working on equity and supply chain issues in Asia. The fifteen minute video briefing (transcript available) examines issues underlying supply chain management challenges in China in the aftermath of this past year’s controversies over imports to the US of toxic pet food, toothpaste, and toys.

Brown states, “It took two decades for the United States to develop its current regulatory system, and even in the best case it will take years if not decades for China to establish an adequate regulatory system to control the issues of product toxicity deep within the multilayered supplied chains of China. The real solutions lie in developing genuine partnerships with suppliers in Asia — providing adequate technical support in training, and investing in the development of new products and materials.”

Also posted today at www.iehn.org are two audio interviews conducted by IEHN Counsel Sanford Lewis with an expert on the weak US regulatory system for eliminating toxic substances in cosmetics, and with a Boston based investor and network member who recently visited Asia to investigate these issues.

Stacy Malkan, author of the new book, Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, says in her interview  that toxic products from countries other than China also pose a problem. In fact, the United States has some of the weakest regulations in the world when it comes to toxic products, with the lead recently detected in lipstick serving as a “poster child” example. Malkan says in her interview, “It’s not made in China. It’s made in the US as far as we’ve been able to find out. So we know that this isn’t just a problem in China. We have a broken regulatory system. The US laws for chemicals in consumer products are some of the weakest in the world. So we find double standard examples all over the place, products that are banned in other countries but sold in the US.”

Lauren Compere directs corporate engagement forBoston Common Asset Management. A member of ASRiA and IEHN, Boston Common has focused on cosmetics safety, toxic chemicals in baby bottles and other product toxicity issues at numerous companies. She reports in her audio interview that on her recent trip to Asia she found companies were still giving more attention to how they can profit from climate change than how to avoid toxicity problems, despite numerous toxic recalls that have received widespread media coverage. She also observed that companies with toxicity issues tend to quit producing the problem products, thereby allowing those products to slip down the supply chain to the lowest level where there is the least scrutiny and regulation.

About IEHN

IEHN is a collaborative partnership of investment managers, advised by nongovernmental organizations, concerned about the market and health risks associated with corporate toxics policies. It serves as an informational resource and secretariat for investors working to reduce portfolio risk related to toxic chemicals.

CONTACT: Patrick Mitchell at (703) 276-3266 or pmitchell@hastingsgroup.com.

 


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