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Religion Organizations Recommend Sales Guidelines

by Rainier on Dec. 14, 2005 @ 12:59 a.m. PST

Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) and other members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), representing more than $110 billion in assets, today outlined recommended guidelines for U.S. retailers to keep 'Mature'-rated video games out of the hands of youths.

The new guidelines arrive among continuing concerns that retailers have not done enough to prevent sales to minors of video games containing graphic violence, strong sexual content and racist themes.

After working effectively with major retailers that have policies and programs in place, including Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, and Circuit City, ICCR shareholders pulled together the “best practices” from these policies into one cohesive set of guidelines, and now call for their strict implementation. Shareholders challenge retailers who have not yet done so, to create strong and effective policies.

Julie Tanner, CBIS corporate advocacy director, said: “Retailers must proactively create and implement clearly formulated, well-monitored and effective policies to ensure the sale of age-appropriate video games to consumers. These policies can help retailers be better neighbors in the communities that they serve, gain credibility with stakeholders, diminish legislative, legal, and reputational risks, and in turn more adequately protect shareholder value.”

Cathy Rowan, co-chair of the ICCR Violence and Militarization of Society Working Group and representative of ICCR member Trinity Health said: “While we’ve seen improvement among retailers on this issue, much more work needs to be done. We are urging all video game retailers to create and enforce video game sales policies that reflect the best practices in the industry to ensure that M-rated video games for audiences ages 17 and older are not sold to minors.”

The newly recommended guidelines address in-store and online violent video game sales and call on retailers to:

  • Post video game sales policies prominently in stores and online;
  • Display signs and brochures to raise awareness among parents and others;
  • Restrict advertising of M-rated games in youth-oriented media;
  • Establish an online method of checking the age of buyers;
  • Train employees on the video games sales policy;
  • Program cash registers to reminder cashiers about age rules;
  • Conduct “mystery shopper” programs and other internal audits; and
  • Separate M-Rated video games from youth-oriented video games.

For the full text of the ICCR guidelines, go to www.cbisonline.com or www.iccr.org on the Web.

Dawn Wolfe, Social Research and Advocacy Analyst, Boston Common Asset Management, LLC said: “While parents play a key role in ensuring that their children are purchasing and playing age-appropriate video games, retailers also have a role to play. Over the past year, ICCR shareholders worked with many retail stores to help them keep content that glorifies violence and is labeled “mature” out of the hands of children. These guidelines can provide retailers with benchmarks and goals for developing new policies or strengthening existing policies.”

While shareholders recognize that the sale of appropriate video games to children requires the cooperation and collaboration of the entire video game industry including the retailers, game developers and producers, the ESRB rating system, government legislators and consumers, they believe that retailers can better protect shareholder value by making a genuine commitment to keep video games with graphic violence, strong sexual content, and racist themes from minors. Research on violent media that is interactive -- such as video and computer games ­ suggests that it has a stronger and more lasting effect on violent behavior of youths.

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