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.

5 thoughts on “CRM Summer Project: Socially Responsible Investing”

  1. I’ve really enjoyed CR Mondays! Thanks to both of you for the time and energy you’ve put into it. 🙂 It’s been an awesome journey. Thanks for the ride.

    I must warn you, though, I won’t be posting much on the SRI entries, as I have ZERO experience with that topic…but I assure you I *will* still be reading and learning.


  2. On a side note, I’d LOVE to hear what you have to say about various soft drink companies. My husband is a “soda junkie” and has recently given up all Coke products based on Josh’s blog entry. But we know the Pepsi products aren’t much better, and we definately can’t afford the “organic fair trade” stuff available to at the natural food stores.

    I’m completely on board for just giving it up altogether and focusing on water, but HE wants to know what the better alternatives are for those times he wants something “different”. The lesser of the evils, so to speak. Any wisom to add there, Ariah??



  3. Okay, so with enough motivation, maybe Corporate Responsibility Monday’s won’t disappear. I think questions like you asked Jamie will help me continue to write on this topic. So, ask and ye shall receive. Next Monday I’ll write about my thoughts on the ‘lesser of the evils’ concept and give my personal opinion on that topic.

    Keep asking and I’ll keep writing.

  4. We are in a hurry. The hurry is: we humans are in the process of destroying our planet. Global warming is the single most significant environmental crisis the world community has ever seen. The 2007 G8 Summit in Germany will focus on the reversal of global warming. President Bush, of course opposes this proposal. Like his strategy in the Middle East, he has a better idea, and he wants to convince the world of something they already know is untrue. This time it’s not that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but that global warming is not that dire an issue.

    Our Nero-like President fiddles, but we cannot allow our Rome to go up in flames. This isn’t a city’s destruction we speak of. It is the end of all of us, of history, of every thought and feeling humankind ever produced. Our present federal government is not going to do anything about this crisis.

    Our company, Connecticut Real Estate and Construction wishes to do something about it, because Connecticut needs workforce housing in significant number for very important reasons. Suburban sprawl is killing the environment. When we continually clear off two acres and more per household to put up large houses, we cut down trees which produce oxygen, we deplete the filtering system for our water, and we make houses which leave a carbon footprint which further opens a hole in the ozone. If we instead build multiple units together and build them with solar photovoltaic cell panels and with geothermal heating and cooling, we leave virtually no carbon footprint, we leave sufficient greenery to filter water run-off, and we provide our workforce with housing that allows them to stay in the state and not flee to the South and Southwest as has been the recent trend. As a result, those businesses (and their tax revenues) which require those workers need not flee with the workforce, a trend we have seen throughout the Northeast region of the country.

    Additionally, we will build elderly housing. The Boomer Generation is aging. They are retiring at record rates and require specific housing that does not exist in sufficient number. We will build it. We will build commercial buildings and office space to go along with the elderly and workforce housing. We need cooperation from local governments to achieve our goals, and we need that cooperation quickly. As we move forward, we will build with town tax rolls in mind. We are aware that the workforce housing will require significant services and expenses, most notably educational expenses. This is why mixing the elderly housing with the workforce balances the ledger, for the elderly pay taxes without sending children to schools. Further, the commercial and office buildings will bring in significant tax revenues without pulling out revenues from the local municipality. This formula is referred to as “Smart Growth” and is to be part of our plans.

    While proposing “caution” and “care” is never foolhardy advice, studies on these issues have already been done and “smart growth” is necessary throughout the state. We cannot wait. The cost is too dear for all of us to sit idly by and fiddle away time as the planet goes up in flames.


    Miles J. Shapiro, Partner
    Connecticut Real Estate and Construction
    VP Marketing and Commercial Real Estate

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