Investing to End Racial and Wealth Inequality

“These are tumultuous times.” It sounds like a cliché, but one could argue that it’s an apt description of life on planet Earth right now. As the world continues its struggle with mitigating the devastating effects of the novel coronavirus, the world has witnessed, yet again, horrific scenes of police violence and brutality against Black Americans. As socially responsible investors, we are well aware of the economic and racial disparities that exist across the world and, most especially, in the US—one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. Moments like these, however, bring those disparities into stark relief, reminding us that if ever there was a time to invest in shifting the paradigm of wealth inequality and institutionalized racism, the time is now.

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Divest, Then Reinvest

In January, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that 2019 was the second hottest year on record, following closely behind 2016. The planet’s five warmest years have all occurred since 2015, and nine of the ten warmest years have occurred since 2005.

There is now overwhelming scientific consensus that CO2 emissions from fossil-fuels are a primary cause for our rising average global temperatures. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states, “Human activities are responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 15 years.” The obvious remedy? A steep reduction of CO2 emissions.

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Returning to the South: Part 2

This article is the second of a two-part series by Tiffany Brown exploring the racial wealth divide across the Deep South.

The Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama tells the story of stolen people, enslavement for free labor, the premature withdrawal of federal troops after Emancipation, and the lack of enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Back then, Black Codes legalized the arrest and punishment of Black people who didn’t have proof of employment, which led to convict leasing. In 1898, 73 percent of Alabama state revenue came from convict leasing to the lumber mills and for road maintenance. A full 35 years after Emancipation, Blacks were still being forced into free labor throughout the South.

In the museum, I learned of several laws that sought to block access by Black people to economic and political systems—on top of school segregation (which didn’t end until 1954) and the prohibition on Black voting until 1965. There was Shelley v. Kraemer (1948),

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Gold: Is there a Socially Responsible Option?

In a time of trade wars and political leaders on the fritz, investors may consider more conservative options to avoid market volatility. Real estate, bonds, and even gold might look appealing in times of turmoil. For socially responsible investors with even a cursory awareness of the gold mining industry, however, the question of whether gold holdings are compatible with human rights and environmental protection is urgent and important.

No Dirty Gold is an advocacy group of nonprofits and companies in industries that use gold. The group supports voluntary improvements in environmental and social practices by the industry.

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2003: How We Can Help Stop the Genocide in Darfur

This article is from our archives as part of the 100th issue special, celebrating twenty-five years of quarterly newsletters. 

Finding this article in our archives, shortly after the attempted coup in Sudan this spring, we are reminded that the human toll in resource-related conflict is real, and economic consequences can extend for decades.

The statistics are mind-boggling: 200,000 dead, 2.5 million refugees and the holocaust in Darfur continues. Investments in oil companies in Sudan are supplying the money that supports this genocide. 70-80% of Sudan’s oil revenue is being funneled into its military. Oil ventures in Sudan are an undeniable enabler of Khartoum’s genocidal policy in Darfur.

There is a growing economic force currently going on to stop the violence. The Sudanese Divestment Task Force (SDTF) instituted a targeted divestment program last year.

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1994: Viva South Africa!

This article is from our archives as a part of our 100th issue special, celebrating twenty-five years of quarterly newsletters. 

References to divestment as an advocacy tool appear throughout this anniversary issue, but the South Africa divestment movement of the 1980s is credited with being the first successful campaign by socially-conscious investors to help catalyze major political change—in this case, the end of apartheid.

For us, the biggest headline of last year was “Apartheid Dies!” The biggest success story for SRI unfolded, as the African National Congress called for lifting sanctions against South Africa. Apartheid is about to be buried, and the people of South Africa are on the difficult road toward democracy.

In 1982, the Calvert Social Investment Fund became the first mutual fund to avoid investing in companies doing  business in South Africa. The movement grew throughout the 1980s and added important financial clout to the struggle to end apartheid. SRI investors can take satisfaction from playing this critical role.

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Impact Profile: Green Century Capital Management

For over twenty-five years, Green Century Capital Management has been a leader in shareholder advocacy. This year, Green Century focused on two themes: sustainable agriculture and climate change. As part of its climate change advocacy, Green Century has been diligently working to promote plant-based proteins—as well as the preservation of tropical forests, the reduction of food waste, and a renewable energy transformation.

Plant-based proteins have received media attention in recent years due to the growing awareness that meat production is one of the main drivers of deforestation in the tropics. Globally, the production of livestock for human consumption generates 14% of the emissions that cause climate change.

By working with investors and agricultural companies,

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Mainstreaming Responsible Investing

We have arrived at a watershed moment in US history, when the principles and practices of sustainable, responsible, and impact investing are finally becoming mainstream. The biennial report on U.S. Sustainable, Responsible, and Impact Investing Trends 2018 (the Trends Report), published by US SIF Foundation, reveals a 38% increase over two years in the assets under professional management that integrate environmental and social corporate governance (ESG) criteria. This means that currently, one in every four dollars under professional management in this country, or $12 trillion, is invested using ethical or socially responsible criteria.

Twenty years ago, SRI assets tallied just over $600 billion. The new data shows that assets have increased 18-fold since 1995—an astounding annual growth rate of nearly 14%.

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In Support of the Climate Necessity Defense

One year ago, in January 2018, three citizens locked themselves to the front entrance of a downtown Wells Fargo bank branch in the city where I live and work, Duluth, MN. The protesters prevented business from being conducted at the branch for three hours. The reason for their actions were simple and well-articulated: they were protesting Wells Fargo Bank’s financing of Enbridge Corporation Line 3, an oil pipeline that runs 1,097 miles from the tar sands of Edmonton, Alberta, to the Enbridge oil storage facility that sits about a mile from the south shore of Lake Superior, just a few miles away from the site of the protest. Environmentalists have deep concerns about the climate impacts of the tar sands, as well as the threat the pipeline poses to local waterways and Indigenous land rights. The police eventually came to the branch to remove the locks and arrested the protesters. All three were charged with misdemeanor trespass, disorderly conduct, and obstruction of justice.

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