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And not use child labour or union-bust in China

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Microsoft will face its first two shareholder resolutions ever at its annual meeting later today. One calls for greater disclosure of the company's political contributions, while the other calls for Microsoft to behave in accordance with the China Labor and Human Rights Principles.

Microsoft is opposing both, so they won't go through - they will however have the designed effect of training the spotlight on the companies' activities in both areas. Responsible Wealth, a grouping of business people pushing for a "fair economy," says Microsoft was the US' fourth largest donor of unregulated "soft money" political contributions in 1999-2000 (beaten by AT&T, UPS and Philip Morris).

The resolution notes that several companies have prohibited such contributions, and resolves that Microsoft should publish a report to shareholders "outlining its policies and the use of its funds for political purposes."

The second resolution, from socially responsible investment operation Harrington Investments, would require Microsoft to make sure its activities in China didn't promote child labour, union suppression, prison labour or environmental damage. It's not at all obvious how Microsoft's relatively small China operations might directly promote any of these, but all the same it's probably worth checking. Microsoft, in common with practically every major US IT company you can shake a stick at, has heavily supported moves to normalise trade relations with China. ®

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