The Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN) claims to represents 20 investment organizations with $22 billion under management that are seeking to ensure that the companies they invest in are taking appropriate steps to reduce risks associated with the toxic chemicals used in their products. IEHN’s ultimate objective is to use "public policy work regarding investor rights and disclosure, as well as dialog and shareholder resolutions, [to address] the risks and opportunities associated with toxic chemicals and safer alternatives in products." IEHN previously issued a report on the use of nanotechnology in cosmetics in February 2007.
IEHN’s new report — "Bridging the Credibility Gap: Eight Corporate Liability Accounting Loopholes that Regulators Must Close," Investor Environmental Health Network, 2009 — focuses on corporate disclosure issues surrounding the commercialization of nanoscale materials. IEHN identifies eight "loopholes" that it believes companies and regulators must close to protect shareholder value.
IEHN’s eight purported "loopholes" are:
1. Shortsightedness: Failing to make a full accounting of potential risks and liability be focusing solely on short term issues.
2. Concealed Science: "Concealing emergency science that forewarns of potential liabilities in the future."
3. The Known Minimum: Basing business decisions on low end risk assessments rather than true case "worst case" scenarios.
4. Privileging Secrecy: Using the attorney client privilege to shield against public disclosure of potential liability.
5. Inconsistent Estimates: Providing different risk estimates to insurers on the one hand, and investors on the other.
6. Hidden Assumptions: "Using hidden assumptions to minimize estimates of liability.
7. Missing Benchmarks: Failing to benchmark a company’s potential liability against its competitors in the same business facing similar liability issues.
8. Risk-Free Proxies: Failing to allow shareholders to place EHS questions on annual proxy ballots.
These purported "loopholes" are not exclusive to nanotechnology. IEHN hypothetically compares the potential corporate liability of companies using nanoscale materials to the ruin faced by companies involved in asbestos manufacturing from the 1930s forward. Basically, IEHN argues that failing to close these eight identified "loopholes" destroyed the asbestos industry and the same thing might happen to the nanomaterials industry if it does not act differently.