By Terry Wiggins
All UUs should know about Socially Responsible Investing (SRI). The Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA’s) Socially Responsible Investing Committee (SRIC) tells us, “Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) means making money AND making a difference.” The SRI movement has been instrumental in achieving positive change at countless companies since it first emerged as a significant force in the 1970s. For example, socially responsible investors were instrumental in getting McDonald’s to reduce its use of Styrofoam packaging.
SRI is more than just avoiding bad companies, such as screening out tobacco or guns. Investment selection, within SRI, means using environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria for positively choosing your investments. Engagement means shareholder activism, i.e., working to improve the ESG performance of the companies whose securities you own. Community investing means directing a portion of your investments in a way that helps to ameliorate poverty and social inequality.
SRI is compatible with strong financial performance, and it is a growing movement. The UUA is a well-known leader in Socially Responsible Investing. First Church takes advantage of the UUA’s excellent work by investing in the UU Common Endowment Fund. Individuals can invest in SRI retail funds from several mutual fund managers and can also invest in community development financial institutions. A good source for more information is ussif.org, or you can ask your financial adviser for SRI advice. Watch for part two of this article for a discussion of Fossil Fuel Free Investing and how First Church’s Earth Justice Ministry became particularly involved in SRI.
Is there something we can do personally to help fix the planet? YES. It is not an insignificant step to get onto the Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) and post-fossil bandwagon personally. We recently wrote about SRI. (By the way, we were not assuming you had money to invest. Some of you have 401(k)s or IRA funds. The same applies for those.)
Now we turn to how First Church’s Earth Justice Ministry became involved in SRI. In 2012, after Bill McKibben talked about the need to divest (thereby tarnishing the reputation of fossil fuel companies), we wrote a resolution to have First Church do just that.
We took the resolution to the Finance Committee and then the Board of Trustees, who passed a resolution for First Church to divest its holdings of the “Carbon Tracker 200” fossil fuel companies. Because our funds were invested with the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Common Endowment Fund, in which they manage the funds of many congregations, the resolution asked us to lobby other UU congregations and the UUA to do likewise. We did just that, and the UU General Assembly passed a similar Business Resolution in 2014.
The General Assembly action necessitated First Church action to synchronize our resolution with theirs, and so our Trustees passed a revised resolution, a hard copy of which is available at the Social Justice Table.
The resolution “encourages other Unitarian Universalist congregations and UUs to review their investments with a view to taking action to end climate change.” Will you join us?