CRM Summer Project: Socially Responsible Investing

Corporate Responsibility Mondays
As Summer quickly approaches it’s time for Corporate Responsibility Mondays to come to a close. It’s been a fun series as Josh and I have co-blogged about corporations in similar industries with differing records:

  1. Clothing:
    Bad: L.L. Bean
  2. Technology:
    Good: Dell and Green hosting
    Evil: Apple
  3. Clothing:
    Good: Maggie’s Organics
    Bad: Kohls
  4. Sweets:
    Good: Equal Exchange
    Bad: Sara Lee
  5. Shoes:
    Good: Tom’s, Hersey, No Sweat, Adbusters, etc.
    Bad: Nike
  6. Bananas:
    Good: Fair Trade
    Bad: Chiquita
  7. Clothing:
    Good: No Sweat Apparel
    Bad: J. Crew
  8. Fast Food:
    Good: Chipotle
    Evil: Burger King
  9. Stocks and Investing:
    Good: Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)
    Bad: Fidelity (and Playboy)

This week, as the Corporate Responsibility draws to a close, Josh and I will be talking about investing. Josh is highlighting a invest firm/stock you might want to stay away from. I’m going to take a different approach today and simply introduce you to the area, not a specific company, of Socially Responsible Investing.

Socially Responsible Investing (which I’ll call SRI from now on) is a fairly simple and straight forward concept, which is simply to have a goal of investing responsibly. What this entails will vary person to person and company to company so it’s something that takes a bit of research.
SRI has taken some criticism because the term doesn’t have clear standards with it or criteria by which to understand what is “responsible” and what is not. Critics say that anyone can simply write up a righteous sounding mission statement and label themselves SRI there by drawing customers and not really being required to perform at the same level of other Mutual Funds and stocks. In an industry that’s fundamental existence has to do with the bottom line, any one suggesting ethics or responsibility come first will be expected to be challenged and looked at funny. The critics do have a point. There are companies out there that have simply taken the label of SRI, but are neither being ‘responsible’ nor seriously ‘investing.’ Yet, that shouldn’t cause use to ditch the whole industry and invest without regard to our values.
If you have any intention of investing your money in the stock market during your life, whether for retirement, college, or just long-term investing, it’s important that your values are reflected in what your choosing. Some SRI stocks focus on environmentally green companies, others seek to avoid tobacco and alcohol, others actively avoid military and gun companies. SRI involves to components usually, screening and activism. Screening is like a mentioned above, filtering companies and stocks based on certain value criteria. They would decide what makes up their portfolio based on avoiding certain companies and seeking out other ones. Activism is the idea of using your investment and stake as a shareholder to encourage change in companies. So, an SRI Mutual Fund might invest in Apple computers so that they can advocate at the annual shareholders meeting for Apple to research more environmentally friendly ways of producing and recycling their products.
The hardest part of SRI is actually doing it. I’ve researched the field off and on for about a year. When I had the chance to set-up a pension with my work I didn’t have much of a choice, there was only one SRI to choose from, Calvert. I’ve been happy with Calvert so far, but I plan on doing more research this summer and seeing what I come up with. Hopefully after this brief lesson your interested in researching Socially Responsible Investing too. That’s why I’ve dubbed this the CRM Summer Project. Maybe this post can be come the conversation hub for our research on SRI and what conclusions we come to on were you should invest. Here are some links to get you started:

Full Disclosure: I currently have some Mutual Funds that are not in SRI funds. I had them before I discovered this important concept and had a desire to align all of my life with my values. I plan on moving them, but didn’t want to make any snap decisions, but rather move them once I understand what’s best.

Corporate Responsibility Mondays have been a ton of fun and I hope you’ve found them interesting and useful. I’ll continue to try and highlight important companies as I discover them, but for now it’s time to say goodbye to the weekly co-blogging with Josh and open Mondays once again.

Be sure to check out Josh’s final post on a stock to avoid.

Displace Me: In Solidarity with IDP’s in Uganda

Invisible ChildrenI decided if there was one word to describe the event I attend last night it was: Cool. I mean cool in the trendy sort of way too, but I realized maybe that’s okay, at least for now. I drove out with some house mates to a field in Hendersonville, TN to participate in an event called Displace Me, put on by Invisible Children.
Here is a summary of the event: 500 people showed up at a field (60,000+ total in 15 cities across the USA), we bring cardboard to make a home with, a box of crackers and a water bottle. Throughout the night we hear video testimonies of people from the camps and we ourselves build homes to sleep in for the night, get our food from ration stations and write letters to political leaders asking them to respond to the situation in Uganda. A video was also shot to be shown on the Senate floor this week to encourage them to action. It was a protest of sorts, a stand of solidarity and a trendy event (this last part made me uncomfortable).
The folks at Invisible Children are doing good things. They are marketing an end to a war in a way that has never been done. It’s catch and cool and it makes you want to be involved, and the end results are that people are fed, educated, and violence is ended; that’s a beautiful thing. I wonder though, how long our attention spans will be, and how serious we are about fixing the problems and willing to change our lives to do so. The event I went to was full of college kids, fired up about making a difference, may that passion carry them through adulthood and the rest of their lives.

I have hope that some will, but cynicism that it will be too few to even notice. I wonder if all our fanfare is really just for us, because it’s more fresh then boy bands and football games. There’s a tension in me. I went to the event to support others in their statements, rather then give way to my cynical attitude, but I still wonder whose right. I feel a tension between joining the folks at Invisible Children, and joining the folks at Geez Magazine:

At that point in history doing good rose dramatically in popularity. It was cool to care. Hollywood strode awkwardly off the red carpet into a one-US-dollar-a-day village. Rock ‘n roll walked streets that had no names. Smart stars drove smart cars. It was a good era for smooth-talking doomsday sayers and drop-dead gorgeous do-gooders.

Benevolence became a brand. It was marketable. It sold. It increased one’s cultural stock value. It went well with sunglasses by . . . whoever made the hot shit sunglasses in those days. It flowed seamlessly into the show script of Entertainment Tonight. You weren’t a star if you didn’t have a cause. It was a new era.

Philanthropy practically became a sport. Gates dropped $30 billion on good causes, and Warren Buffet put in $31 billion. The big boys bought race horses, or football teams and set up charitable foundations. Goodwill was in the air.

Every corporation on earth adopted sustainable development practices – triple/quadruple/quintuple bottom lines. They all won green awards from each other’s foundations and associations, and added “environmental responsibility” sections to their websites. Click.

Both hope and cynicism could hardly have wished for ground more fertile. But neither seemed like satisfying responses. Eventually, weary of salvation, Africa said no thanks.

And we started looking for a less popular way to care.


Flash Back: Is Church Really About the Sermon?

Another post from a series I did on Considering Church, this one was entitled, Good Sermons Draw a Crowd:

I understand bigger churches, especially when there is a great preacher. There are a handful of sermons I download regularly to listen to during the week, and if I lived in those towns I’d probably check them out on Sunday. There is a church in my hometown that has grown immensly, and I think it is largely do to the head pastors wonderful preaching. So, don’t get me wrong I understand the appeal of a good sermon.

For me though, that just doesn’t seem what the church should centrally be about. One of the first things that is said about the early meetings of believers is “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Now, I’m not arguing we shouldn’t have teaching, I just think we’ve put far too much focus on it, and we lack the fellowship and the close knit community that is so necessary, or beneficial, to carrying out the teachings and the gospel itself.

I’ve continued this discussion recently off-line with some friends in my community and with my brother and dad on our camping trip. It’s been extremely interesting to think about. And at the same time, I’ve been listening to multiple sermons a week on my bike ride to and from work. I’m not against sermons, just sermons as the focus of a Sunday morning.

What are your thoughts on Sermons on Sunday?

What if Everyone Just Stopped Driving?

Buried Car
Spurred on by the discussion about Driving and Environmental Stewardship, I thought I’d imagine what would happen if everyone just stopped driving. They’d need some sort of compelling reason, so to make this semi realistic, let’s say that during the Super Bowl when millions of people are watching TV, there is a commercial that shows conclusive evidence that driving cars kills babies (It’s got to be drastic right?). What would happen?

Monday Morning:
Millions call in sick to work, simply because they don’t know how to get there without their vehicle. Those with the 1+ hour commute start looking for other jobs closer to home. Lot’s of other people would take public transportation for the first time. They’d probably get up earlier, walk a few blocks with cash in their pocket to pay the fare and get a transfer slip. The only problem is the bus would probably be late since their ridership has increased 1000% overnight! Lot’s of people would be late to work and to school, but the bosses and teachers would be accommodating as they are making big transportation changes as well. Some in decent climates pull out their bikes and try their commute for the first time on two wheels. Every once in a while you see a car driving down the street, but the looks and scowls they get are frequent. When they arrive to work their bosses call them in and reprimand them for being unethical and not putting forth a positive image of their business, and they threaten to fire them if they don’t find an appropriate way to get to work. To initially accommodate, most businesses shorten their work week by one hour in the morning and night to allow employees time to adjust to their new commutes (which might not be necessary since nobodies really dealing with rush hour traffic anymore).

In One Week:
Cities would respond immediately. Bus routes, buses and bus driver jobs would double or triple, the only delay being how quickly they could get new buses in service. Businesses would make showers available, maybe even create locker rooms for people to use after biking in to their jobs. Tons of entrepreneurs would start-up private buses to fill the gap between public bus services. And in the meanwhile, restaurants and other nightlife experience a serious decline as their only costumers are those within walking distance. The same is true for grocery stores and other shopping centers. The mass of shoppers that filled those stores weeknights and weekends is no longer there, and won’t be; a change needs to be made.

Car with WeedsA Few Months:
We are a resilient people and we are still a capitalist society, so the response to this change is fascinating. Large Shopping areas off the highway are like ghost towns. The people that used to work there have changed jobs to similar positions in local business in their own neighborhood. Those of an entrepreneurial spirit have started up coffee shops, grocery stores, hardware shops, barbers, and convenience stores within walking distance of every neighborhood in the country. The stock market declines dramatically as businesses like Walmart, Exxon and GM experience a decline or even absence of sales, but the economy is still booming. Money is circulating on a much more local level now. Instead of a person driving into a shopping center to profit a company from a different state and pay a minimum wage to a person from a different community, the money stays in the neighborhood. A person gets a haircut at the barber who buys his groceries from his neighbors local store who gets a toolset from the local hardware store who tithes to the local church who pays for a homeless women to get an apartment from a local landlord who visits the local barber who just employed the formerly homeless women who just got a job there, and the cycle continues.
And a lot of people move.

It would take less then a year for our entire country to dramatically change. My thoughts are just guesses at some of the changes that might happen if this happened. A mass exodus from the use of personal transportation, because, maybe somewhat indirectly, our gas-guzzling, air-polluting, crash-prone cars really do kill babies.

Se7en Verses that are NOT in the Bible

  1. “God helps those who help themselves.”
  2. “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
  3. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
  4. “Money is the root of all evil.”
  5. “…Blessed Trinity”

Who said I actually had to have seven? I mostly wanted to post this after reading the intro to an article I had posted a few weeks ago:

Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. This failure to recall the specifics of our Christian heritage may be further evidence of our nation’s educational decline, but it probably doesn’t matter all that much in spiritual or political terms. Here is a statistic that does matter: Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.” That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in Holy Scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin’s wisdom not biblical; it’s counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans—most American Christians—are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up.

So, I felt the need to post Verses that are Not in the Bible, in an effort to clear things up once and for all. Now just a brief note one each one, listed by number again:

  1. Like it said, counter Biblical.
  2. This can be found strongly implied in other scriptures.
  3. Don’t know that there’s much Biblical support for this one.
  4. It’s the Love of Money that is a root of all kinds of evil.
  5. Though you can Biblically find support for the trinity, no where in scripture does it actually make this distinction.

Equal Pay Day: It’s Time Women Get Even

My wife will soon be entering into a full time professional career as a Family Nurse Practitioner. And I’m not ashamed to say, she will be the primary wage earner in our family. She’ll be the one pulling in the big bucks and putting bread on the table. I have no doubt will survive just fine and be able to support a family. What’s disturbing though, is to know that, without intervention and advocacy, it is very possible she will be denied a fair and equal wage. I believe the wage gap is wrong and you can be assured I will stand up for the rights of my wife and other women to receive proper pay for their work and talents.
The Chart below is from The WAGE Project and uses US Census data. According to the chart, Mindy will earn $30,000 less a year then if, say, I went ahead and had gotten a Master’s degree:
Wage Gap by Education

Today is Equal Pay Day, a chance for Women (and the men around them) everywhere to stand up and demand that our bosses, supervisors, CEO’s and businesses put aside the discrimination and inequality and begin paying Women an equal pay. If your a husband, father, or son, I suggest you try and sit down and do your best to put your listening ears on and ask your female loved ones if and how they feel they have been discriminated against. If your a business owner, boss, or anyone with any authority over pay scales, I suggest you start doing some research and agreeing to take action on this issue today.

I’ll be writing more about this later, but for now I’ll just close with this brief summary from The WAGE Project.

Why Is There A Wage Gap?

The wage gap is the result of a variety of forms of sex discrimination in the workplace, including discrimination in hiring, promotion and pay, sexual harassment, occupational segregation, bias against mothers, and other ways in which women workers and women’s work are undervalued.

Hiring, Promotion, Pay

First comes what most people think of as sex discrimination: the simple and straightforward refusal to hire, promote, or fairly pay women who are just as qualified as men.

Sexual Harassment

Few people realize that sexual harassment also constitutes wage discrimination. After long and repeated sexual harassment, women leave or lose their jobs, potential raises, promotions, opportunities, emotional stability, ability to work, and sometimes their lives.

Occupational Segregation

In 2000, two-thirds of all US working women were still crowded into twenty-one of the 500 occupational categories. And, then women’s work is consistently paid less than men’s work. Are janitors really worth more than nurses’ aides, parking lot attendants more than child care workers, construction laborers more than bookkeepers and cashiers? According to American payrolls, they are.

Taxing Motherhood

Many people believe that the wage gap exists because women choose to care for children. But do they really choose to be paid less for doing the same work they did before giving birth? Forget the mommy track: too many women find themselves shunted unwillingly onto the mommy sidetrack. Frustrated women talk about how, once they came back from maternity leave, colleagues began to treat them as unreliable and unpromotable—almost willfully overlooking any evidence of productivity

Undervaluing Women Workers

Everyday, women workers suggestions are dismissed — only to be discussed seriously when made by a man. Or when employers turn to old boy networks rather than public postings to recruit new talent. Or when interviews or screening tests prize male strengths or deeper voices, even though women’s strengths and communication styles could accomplish the job just as well.

Read more from The Wage Project

Corporate Responsibility: Quenching Your Thirst

Corporate Responsibility Mondays
Corporate Responsibility Mondays are simple, I’ll highlight responsible companies, Josh will highlight not so responsible companies. Today we are taking on the beverage industry, and I’ll be giving you two for the price of one.

When it comes to Fair-Trade, Organic Soda Pop, there is only one certified company out there, and that’s JavaPop. But it’s not your normal Soda, it’s Coffee Soda. I’ve never had Coffee soda so I’m not sure if it fits in with the Pepsi and Dr. Pepper products, but it is a Soda, and your coffee addicts might just love it. JavaPop was created to fill the niche market of beverages for those looking for Fair Trade options. They get their beans from a well established fair trade Roaster, Green Mountain Coffee, so you can be pretty sure it’s the quality and value your expecting.

The thing is, I don’t really like Coffee, so I wanted to make sure I highlight another company that might also be worth buying from, Jones Soda. The only reason I was hesitant to highlight Jones is because there isn’t a lot of information on their website or elsewhere highlighting why they might fit with our values and ethics, but there also wasn’t any criticism (though they are smaller so that’s not too surprising).

Jones SodaTheir profile on has only a praise listed and they have pretty good ratings (compared to others). If your looking for Organic, they have a whole line of organic teas, USDA certified organic at that.
Here are some other highlights:

  • Jones Soda Co. announced today its support of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA). Jones Soda will raise a minimum of $25,000 (US) for ADA and $5,000 (CAN) for CDA to further diabetes research, information and advocacy.
  • Jones Soda uses recycled products to create their bottles and encourages consumer recycling
  • Jones uses pure cane sugar for their sodas, not High Fructose Corn Syrup.
  • They have this great line hinting at alternative fuel ideas: “So leave the corn for your cars, and keep the sugar for your soda.”

I couldn’t find conclusive evidence about the distribution and where their ingredients and materials come from, but from what I could see I think they are completely made in the USA. Jones Soda, as you might know, is a fun company that displays consumer submitted photos on all their bottles. They are unique and different and I think they are more willing to embrace responsible values then the big companies out there. So if your looking to quench your thirst, check out Jones Soda and JavaPop.

And be sure to check out Josh’s post on a irresponsible company.

Creation Sunday: Love Your Neighbors

It’s Earth Day folks, an exciting and important day for us to sit back and remember Mother Earth needs to be loved and cared for too. So, besides running out and getting your free CFL Lightbulb from Home Depot, lowering your carbon emissions, and maybe planting a tree or flowers in your garden, let’s reflect a little on some of the Biblical mandate that compels us to care about the creation around us.

Creation Care Magazine has a great intro:

Despite our desire to be close to the natural world expressed through birdwatching, gardening, camping, and hiking, it is really the poorest of the poor who live in closest contact with the physical world. The environmental experience of poor farmers in sub-Saharan Africa dealing with drought is direct. Poor people in America’s inner cities breathe polluted air and feel heat waves without the buffer of elaborate air-conditioning systems. Most good things in our economy are distributed unequally between rich and poor, and clean, healthy environments are no exception. Concern for the “least of these” (Matthew 25) moves us to care for the life-support system God created and which sustains them and us.

Creation SundayIn a globalized world, we need to think broadly about who our neighbor is. The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that difference, distance, and geography matter very little in our call to express compassion and love. In an interconnected climate system, emissions from our cars and factories are “shared” with our neighbors around the planet (and have impacts that will last for hundreds of years). Pollution from foreign factories producing goods for the American market is being emitted on our behalf. Understanding the side-effects of how our global economy works helps us to understand that our compassion must similarly be without borders.

What if we began to realize that ‘Church’ and our ‘Christian’ life had more to do with how we live then just what we say we believe? What if our actions and choices on Sunday reflected the scripture and God’s love for his creation more? Is it odd for people to drive for miles from all over a city, to a central building pumping in climate adjusted temperatures, drinking coffee out of Styrofoam cups, all to sing songs about the beauty of God’s creation? That seems like a problem. Will Braun from Geez Magazine casts a vision of what Church might look like in High Efficiency Worship:

What if the cracks around our church windows are letting the holy spirit out as they let the wintry cold in? What if the energy-sucking light bulbs in our sanctuaries are casting an unholy glow on our otherwise holy scriptures?

The sacredness of our sanctuaries has something to do with the pipes, wires and ducts that connect them to the warming world outside. The figurative energy in the room – the good vibes, feelin’-the-spirit sort of energy – has something to do with the literal energy in the room; the energy that heats, cools, lights and amplifies. So maybe the text for next Sunday’s sermon should be the church’s monthly energy bill. That bill is a spiritual matter.

Since many church buildings are old and brutally inefficient, assessing enviro-spiritual impacts can quickly become overwhelming and paralyzing. But what if we just skipped the hand-wringing stage – just suspended guilt and went right on to the actual task of bringing our worship in line with the ecological and spiritual realities of our time? The warming earth doesn’t really have time for our guilt (or our SUV-maligning, Exxon-bashing self-righteousness either). This world needs all the sacredness it can get, so it’s time to make our sanctuaries as holy as they can be. (read the rest)

I didn’t, at first, choose biking because I liked it. I certainly didn’t buy CFL bulbs to save money, and my obsession with not wasting water wasn’t because I hated long warm showers. If we are to love our global neighbors, as scripture compels us to, if we are to stand in awe of God’s creation, which scripture is full of praises about, then today and every day should be celebrated as a chance to tend to the Creation God has placed us in. Amen for Creation Sunday.

Flash Back: What it Might Be Like to Live Without Heat

Once during the winter, prompted by my friend Peter’s experience in China, I turned off the heat in my apartment and tried to live life as normal, but without the modern convenience (and privilege) of heat. Here is a bit of Living without Heat:

I wondered about how much the quality of your apartments building layout affects your expenses to keep it warm. Can you imagine living in a low income housing situation where not only was your rent high for extremely low quality, but you had to leave the heat running constantly to keep it at all warm.
Friday night I went to sleep with a sheet, a comforter, a blanket and then a sleeping bag (rated to 20 degrees) on top of me. I was warm, but it felt like being outside. Saturday at about noon I stepped outside and realized it was considerable warmer out there then it was in my own apartment and it was only 46 degrees out there. I tried to open the window shades to let the sun in, but the angle our house is at didn’t allow for much direct sunlight coming through.
After it got cold enough that I had to put on a shirt, long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt and sometimes a vest I was starting to get miserable. I don’t have a hat or gloves and so I had my hood on and I tried to keep my hands in my sleeves a bit. My hands where getting quite cold which didn’t feel good. I tried to think of it like camping outdoors or something, but I couldn’t break out of the fact that this was my home! I feel like I should be comfortable in my home. I thought in my mind that maybe I should try and make it through Saturday evening, making it a full 48 hours. I sort of made that up on the spot cause I think I wanted to feel like I had achieved some sort of goal, or survived through something. Truth is I just wanted to turn the heat back on.

Read the rest here.

Could you imagine actually living without the ability to control the heat in the winter and the air conditioning in the summer? Would we be angrier and more difficult people just because of that inconvenience, or would we learn how to cope?