Simon Billenness

Managing Consultant, Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability

 

Described by the New York Times “a super-specialist” in human rights advocacy, Simon Billenness has over 25 years of experience helping investors, non-profits, universities, communities, and unions use their power to lobby their governments and hold corporations accountable.
At the socially responsible asset management firm Trillium Asset Management, Simon Billenness pioneered the use of shareholder engagement of oil, gas, and mining companies operating in countries racked by conflict and burdened by repressive regimes in Burma (Myanmar), China, East Timor, and Nigeria. Working with animal rights groups, he helped file the first shareholder resolution at McDonald’s to improve the conditions of farm animals. He also worked with Greenpeace and U.S. PIRG to file the first shareholder resolutions at BP on climate change.

Simon Billenness has considerable experience working with boards of directors and investment committees. He often advises students, administrators, and faculty on how to develop university endowment investment policies. He has consulted to Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, and Catholic Healthcare West (now Dignity Health) on how to express their mission and values through social screening of investments and shareholder engagement on human rights, social justice, and environmental issues. He has also made presentations on divestment and shareholder engagement to the boards of CalPERS and the University of Washington as well as top executives of the World Bank.

He served on the Committee on Socially Responsible Investment of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) where he helped the Unitarian Universalist Common Endowment Fund screen its investments and engage in shareholder activism on LGBT rights, social justice, and climate change. He also helped negotiate between staff and members to write a business resolution on fossil fuel divestment that passed overwhelmingly at the 2014 UUA General Assembly.

As part of the Free Burma movement, he has organized shareholder activism and the use of state and local selective purchasing laws to put pressure on corporations to withdraw from Burma. Simon Billenness co-authored the Massachusetts Burma selective purchasing law with state rep. Byron Rushing and led the grassroots lobbyng campaign to enact it. Later, he helped defend the law from challenge at the World Trade Organization and in the U.S. Supreme Court. He also helped found the U.S. Campaign for Burma and served on the Board of Directors and as Executive Director.

At Oxfam America, Simon Billenness founded the work of the agency’s Private Sector Department. He helped communities around the world affected by oil, gas, and mining corporations to secure support from shareholders and directly engage the companies in order to protect their lands and livelihoods. He also created a coalition of investors that successfully pressed Procter & Gamble to support farming communities by starting to buy Fair Trade Certified coffee for its Millstone brand.

As Co-chair of the Business and Human Rights Group of Amnesty International USA, Simon Billenness has built the capacity of staff and members to put effective pressure on companies to respect human rights. He also helps manage Amnesty International USA’s use of a portfolio of stocks for shareholder activism on issues of human rights.

In all of his work, Simon Billenness has brought many parties to the table to dialogue with top corporate executives. Through careful facilitation, he has helped many corporations reach common ground with their critics and address tough environmental and human rights issues.

Simon Billenness has often been brought in by corporations to help them address tough issues. He has made presentations to top management at Procter & Gamble and Newmont Mining. ExxonMobil invited Simon Billenness to speak about social responsibility and sustainability to its elite management training program.

He especially loves his role as an advisory board member of both SumOfUs and the Harry Potter Alliance.

Simon Billenness has a BA (Political Science and Economics) from Loughborough University and holds an MBA from Boston College. He also completed the Prince of Wales’s Business and Sustainability Programme, which convenes leaders of business, government, and the non-profit sector.