Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Socially responsible investing”

Socially Responsible Investing Proxy Power

It might not be enough to just invest in a socially responsible portfolio, In an article by GreenBiz.com, a new report is reviewed that highlights a rising number of shareholder resolutions that focus on improving various companies’ social and environmental performance.

“Nearly 400 environmental and social shareholder resolutions were filed in the latest proxy season for issues ranging from labor and human rights to supply chain impacts and recycling, according to Proxy Preview 2011. The seventh annual report was published by As You Sow, the Sustainable Investments Institute and Proxy Impact.

“I think the critical difference proxy voting makes is to signal to companies that these issues are important to significant institutional investors,” said Leslie Lowe, an attorney and senior program strategist to As You Sow.”

The phenomenon of shareholders getting involved in this way has seen a steady growth in momentum as more conventional investors have begun to embrace Socially Responsible Investing with a growth of 55% of proxy filing in the last 10 years.

Examples of  environmental resolutions include those related to natural resource management and toxics. Companies such as Bisphenol, Yum Brands, and Dentsply International, IBM, Pepsi, and Target have been filed and are pending. according to the report.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/

Socially Responsible Investing – Not Everyone is in Favor

Sean Williams understands about unethical business. He worked in the world of  jewelry business, where apparently “endless ethical quandaries that arise between gemstone suppliers and a demanding public.”

Such conflicts included child labor and rebel militia and governments using black-market stones to pay for their weapons and armies. Though there are ways to do ethical business in the gem world, it is littered by beauracracy and red tape.

While he supports people wanting to do what is ethically right, he does not believe you should exclude investing in a company just because they fail to reach a vague set of standards that determine what’s right or wrong ethically.

What happens when you discard these socially responsible investing principle? Williams’ answer is clear – You profit!

This is from his article. For the full text click here.

“I’m not saying you’ll profit on every trade in what I’ll call “sin stocks,” but by simply including them in your field of investment choices you’ve broadened your scope of understanding of the business landscape and given yourself other avenues by which to boost your portfolio.

Since the barrier to entry in these industries is so high, due to the stringent laws that govern these industries, sin stocks often have considerable pricing power. Because of this, they can often provide a nice hedge against prolonged economic downturns.

Perusing sectors usually cast aside by social responsible investors, you can unearth some truly solid growth stories. After carefully searching through these sin stocks, I’ve uncovered two that present tempting valuations while offering solid long-term outlooks.”

Williams has a point. If you need to make money fast (and many of us are playing catch up after the economic hurricane of the past few years), then SRI doesn’t match up in simple returns to many of what Williams calls the “sin stocks.”

He may very well be right. The question is, who is responsible for sustainable economies. We have seen that big business can’t do it, and the government won’t do it. Perhaps we need to stop investing for tomorrow  and begin investing for our children’s future.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/

Socially Responsible Investing – The Case Against

Over the last couple of days I have been promoting Socially Responsible Investing (SRI). I thought to write a post sharing the case against. Obviously the big investors and most small investors do not promote SRI, so I wanted to find out why.

Unfortunately it has not been easy. There were several articles and videos that hint about a lower return on investing from such strategies, but little more.

I wonder why this is? Is there a unsaid assumption that it is okay to turn a blind eye in the name of profit? I find this incredibly disturbing. It is the same principle for those who tut and shake their heads at poverty in parts of Asia and Africa, and yet are happy to profit from their cheap labor and sweatshops and wear jeans and running shoes that were manufactured there.

There is now a call for forcing major investing companies to commit a certain percentage of their capital to SRI. This is an interesting discussion from South Africa.

Also check this interview between some investing heavyweights from around the world.

Have you seen or heard people arguing against SRI, or advising against it? If it is such a clear-cut issue, why are only a very few people investing this way? And why are we allowing it to be swept under the carpet?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/

Socially Responsible Investing – Some Reading Material

Yesterday, I began a series on Socially Responsible Investing. Whenever I encounter a new topic, I look for books to provide a basic level of information. This is, I realize very different from the millennials with whom I work. They worship at the keyboards of the Goddess Google and pick up an initial picture with amazing ease. If you are considering investing and want to consider companies that live up to a level of responsible business principles, here are a few suggestions.

I generally love the For Dummies books. They give you a clear foundation for whatever topic they chose. There is no need to read in chronological order and the information is very clear. Socially Responsible Investing for Dummies, more than anything else, gave me the confidence to take a first step and begin investing.

The second book I used is Green Investing. This book profiles about 100 companies with an environmental emphasis. I used this book to decide on 12 companies that I was going to focus on. I did my due diligence by checking websites with more recent news or commentary, but the book gave me somewhere to start.

If you do decide to try investing in socially conscious companies, these are solid books to begin with. There is so much information out there that it can be daunting. The volatility of the market as we have witnessed is scary and, as most investors write on their site, you should not be exposing money that you cannot afford to lose. However, if you decide to invest, this is investing in the future. For many of these companies, without serious investment, they will not be able to research and market their products and we will remain with products that are not sustainable. If we are to move the economy on, it will be done by the grassroots decisions of millions of people who care.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/

 

 

Socially Responsible Investing – 1

In my novel, The Accidental Activist, there is a scene when the protagonist upset by the sheer power of the multinational glares at commuters on the train and “silently challenges their portfolios.”

This scene led me to begin researching socially responsible investing. Can those of us with disposable income make a difference through the ways we invest? Are we culpurable for the environmental damage and human rights abuses of companies from whom we enjoy dividends?

Over the next few days I want to examine this idea. Here is a short kick-off, a short introduction from Stephen Whipp, who brings 30 years of experience with him.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/

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