People of Faith Have Led the Way

What role has the faith community played in Sustainable Investing? 

Sustainable and Responsible Investing (SRI) has its roots firmly planted in the oldest Judeo-Christian principles. Torah law focused a great deal on helping the most vulnerable in society and established many principles of ethical investing. 

Many of these principles carry over into the New Testament.  As the Episcopal Church notes on its website, “Jesus said more about money and its right use than about anything else except the Reign of God.” 

Later, in the 18th Century the most influential founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, had numerous specific directives on socially responsible investing.  In his sermon “The Use of Money” he urged his followers to avoid investing in businesses that would harm their neighbors such as weapons, alcohol, tobacco or gambling. In the U.S., Quakers were particularly vocal speaking out against investing in slavery or the manufacture of weapons.  

How can you have a positive impact? 

In the last 50 years people of faith have been in the forefront of socially responsible, low carbon, and community investing.  National religious groups also pioneered shareholder engagement which has led to many positive changes in corporate policy and in the broader society.  

For example, in the 1980s and 1990s several national churches led the divestment campaigns that were so important in bringing democracy and equal rights to South Africa.  More recently, several national denominations have sponsored successful shareholder initiatives to combat global warming and bring greater diversity to corporate boards.  And of course, Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical on climate change spurred many individuals to reevaluate how they could reduce their own carbon footprint. 

Are your shares being voted consistently with your values?

Most investors and institutions are unaware of the opportunity they have to effect social change through shareholder engagement.  As a result, they do not insure that their shares of stock and mutual funds are voted consistently with their values. 

The ironic result is that many local faith institutions' shares are voted against shareholder resolutions proposed by the national branch of their faith. Is this happening with your personal investments or your house or worship's funds? Are you overlooking a meaningful way to achieve positive change through community investing and shareholder activism?

Let's Talk

I have been very active within my own church on these issues.  So I would be happy to begin a dialogue with you on how your portfolio (or your church or synagogue's portfolio) can create greater social justice while providing the opportunity to achieve your financial goals.  We hope to hear from you. 


William Bruno