Socially Responsible Investments
- News for Anarchists & Activists:
THE STRONGEST FORCE: LOVE, LUST, OR MONEY?
Ann Hancock is a sustainability educator in Sonoma County,
What is the strongest force on the planet? Love? Lust?
Money? If you ask Amy Domini, President of the Domini Social
Equity Fund, she thinks it's money. The dollars we spend and
invest have power. They create consequences that affect the
economy, and by extension, each other and the world. Domini
adds, the strongest force on the planet is "you with your
investment account and me with my investment account."
Because of people's growing awareness of the power that
voting with their money carries, they are increasingly
turning to socially responsible investing. In 2001,
according to a report just released by Social Investment
Forum, socially responsible investments -- "SRI" for short
-- accounted for a record $2 trillion, capping two years of
rapid growth despite an overall bearish market. Total SRI
assets rose by 36 percent, from the second half of 1999
through the middle of 2001, compared with a 22 percent rise
for other investment assets for the same period.
Diane South of Citizens Funds says, "When you think of Enron
as a story of greed and hubris, socially responsible
investing is really a story about goodness and heart." But
investors needn't sacrifice the bottom line for goodness and
heart. For example, over the ten year period ending June
2001, one Domini fund exceeded the Standard and Poor 500
Index, which is a very impressive performance.
Europeans surpass Americans in their commitment to socially
responsible investing. Case in point: four countries --
Britain, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands -- now
require that every pension fund include in their annual
report a description of how they use environmental and
social criteria as part of their investment decision-making.
According to Hugo Steensma, an advisor to Zurich-based
Sustainable Asset Management, citizen and shareholder
pressure in Europe and increasingly in the United States has
caused pension funds and companies to become more
environmentally and socially responsible.
"We have more power than we realize and can exert it to
bring about corporate change -- but collectively, not as
individuals working alone," says Steensma. For example, he
cites the Greenpeace-led boycott in Europe several years ago
protesting Shell Oil's disposal of obsolete North Sea oil
platforms. Shell lost about 50 percent of its sales in
Europe and was forced to the bargaining table. Ultimately
Greenpeace and Shell came to a mutually amenable agreement.
Visionary investors help create shareholder and corporate
advocacy that in turn applies pressure on legislation and on
rules governing national and international economies. Mutual
funds are starting to seek companies whose leaders actively
advocate and lobby for socially and environmentally
sustainable practices and legislation.
Such advocacy is urgently needed. International financier
George Soros warns, "Although I have made a fortune in the
financial markets, I now fear that the untrammeled
intensification of laissez-faire capitalism and the spread
of market values into all areas of life is endangering our
open and democratic society. The main enemy of the open
society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the
Every dollar that respects and restores social and community
fabric, that hugs a tree and not just the bottom line, helps
rewrite our economic rules and create a sustainable world.
This is Ann Hancock for TomPaine.com.
Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
News for Anarchists & Activists:
"It's a political statement -- or, rather, an
*anti*-political statement. The symbol for *anarchy*!"
-- Batman, explaining the circle-A graffiti, in
_Detective Comics_ #608