Cisco shares dumped over human rights

Cisco has had 167,000 of its shares sold over its human rights record.

The technology company had its shares flogged by activist investor Boston Common Asset Management LLC, which claimed that Cisco was not doing enough to ensure its equipment wasn’t being sold or used for the suppression of human rights.

Cisco is one of many companies which have become embroiled with human rights groups in recent years as a result of their sales to governments in China. Boston Common has not taken the decision to sell the stocks lightly however, nagging Cisco for a good few years to monitor the risks these sales could pose.

In November it took further steps by sponsoring a resolution at Cisco’s annual meeting in which it called on the company to study steps it could take to reduce the likelihood its business practices might lead to violations of rights like freedom of expression and privacy.

But these initiatives clearly haven’t worked. It said in a statement obtained by Network World: “Boston Common’s decision to divest comes after years of campaigning Cisco for greater transparency and accountability on key human rights and business development concerns,”

 “Freedom of expression, privacy, and personal security are all critical elements in maximising network traffic. Politically and socially repressive policies related to speech and privacy has a chilling effect on users and violates universally recognised human rights. When pressed for details on how Cisco addresses these risks, they come up short.”

Cisco tried to stick up for itself claiming that it had already published a social responsibility report.

“We continually evaluate and address human rights issues within our business operations and in communities where we operate,” a Cisco spokeswoman said in a statement to Reuters.

“We have various policies, practices and procedures in place relating to human rights around the word, and believe our business practices and our standards-based technology architecture support the benefits of Internet access to information on a global basis.”

Microsoft and Yahoo have also been in the spotlight. The worry is that they may have supplied software and hardware which has been used to clamp down on electronic free speech and dissidents’ communications.