International SRI Criteria

By Michael Kramer
This article appeared originally in the Winter 2007 edition of the Natural Investing newsletter

International investing is an integral part of Natural Investing. But which countries and foreign-owned companies make suitable investments? Over 20 years ago, SRI investors helped bring down the apartheid regime in South Africa by divesting in American companies conducting business there and asking them to cease operations there. This legacy is carried on today by seeking to avoid investment in countries which are deemed repressive or otherwise in violation of international human rights and environment standards.

There are relatively few SRI funds that focus on buying stocks outside the U.S. These include Calvert World Values and Portfolio 21. In 2005, Domini launched their European fund (see Natural Investment News, Summer 2006) and has recently opened a new PacAsia fund.

We are still waiting for someone to offer the first SRI international bond fund. Perhaps this is because of the difficulty of deciding which countries would be acceptable to SRI investors. I’ve been researching this area and found that there is no consensus on what the criteria should be for excluding or including certain countries.

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NI Newsletter Winter 2007

Newsletter Contents

  • Hal Brill: View from Paonia
  • Michael Kramer: International SRI Criteria
  • Christopher Peck: Past the Tipping Point: SRI in the Rockies 2006
  • Scott Secrest: What’s Up on Wall Street? – 4th Quarter, 2006
  • NI Mutual Fund Profile: Calvert Mid Cap Value Fund
  • Guest Commentary: Taking it To the Streets – the Surge of Yes by Meg O’Shaughnessy

Download NI Newsletter Winter 2007 (pdf 573.20Kb)

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Community Investing After Katrina

By Michael Kramer
This article first appeared in the Fall 2006 edition of the Natural Investing newsletter

In the 15 months since hurricanes devastated the Gulf Coast Region, natural investors have participated in revitalizing communities through investing in affordable housing, minority-owned businesses, and redeveloping urban and rural areas torn apart by the storms.

Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) have channeled capital to low-income and displaced populations traditionally underserved by conventional banks, providing credit to those who have insufficient income or lack credit or collateral. This assistance has been and continues to be critical for those hardest hit by Katrina. Because the CDFIs were already in these communities, they had the infrastructure and relationships in place to offer immediate and prolonged help throughout the recovery effort.

Natural Investment Services (NIS) investors have to date invested over $2.2 million in this community investing initiative through two primary vehicles: CRA Qualified Investment Fund and Calvert Community Investment Notes.

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United Nations Embraces Responsible Investing

By Michael Kramer This article first appeared in the summer 2006 edition of the Natural Investing newsletter

The United Nations has launched a bold initiative that officially endorses socially responsible investing (SRI) as the international standard. The UN’s new Principles of Responsible Investment provide a global framework for integrating social, environ- mental, and governance factors into the investment decision-making process.

Needless to say, it is quite thrilling to get an endorsement by the UN of the approach that NIS and our clients have taken for years. It is not entirely surprising given the rapid growth of SRI around the world and its acceptance by major institutional investors. Indeed the UN has already been involved in this growth through the UN Global Compact – the world’s largest corporate responsibility initiative – with nearly 3,000 corporate participants and other stakeholders. Also, more than 160 banks, insurers, fund managers and others are involved in the UN Environment Program’s Finance Initiative, working to understand the impacts of environmental and social considerations on financial performance.

In a speech given at the New York Stock Exchange, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated,

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