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Filed under: March 2011

SRI Stock Options (Part 5)

I recently watched the 2003 documentary “The Corporation” again, a film that inevitably gets me thinking about switching careers. But for now I will continue to believe that it’s better to incite change from my position inside the investment industry rather than just throwing my hands up in resignation. I see just enough progress on the part of some corporations to maintain faith in the value of what I do for a living. When building a socially responsible investment portfolio, I choose from a list of about 40 companies that don’t cause meto lose sleep at night thinking about dead birds, or slave labour, or nuclear meltdowns. I’ve followed the three companies highlighted below for years now. Continue…

SRI Stock Options (Part 4)

I’m not very comfortable with the word “ethical”, particularly when used beside the word “corporation”. A corporation is a thing, in this case a legal structure, so how can it be classified as ethical or not?

So an oil company, at its essence simply an owner or tenant on land where oil is found, is not inherently unethical. It’s the way they get that oil from the ground to your fuel tank that can be put on an ethical scale. What efforts does the corporation make to remediate environmental disruption? How are employees and communities at the epicentre of these activities being treated? Is the result of these operations a net benefit to broader society?

When someone asks me “What makes this an ethical portfolio?”, Continue…

SRI Stock Options (Part 3)

Over the years, a fair number of my clients have rolled their eyes and slumped in their chairs when presented with so-called ‘ethical’ investment options. The institutions in Canada that market investments to the public…banks, credit unions, insurance companies, mutual funds…only a small fraction are vigorously responding to the Canadian public’s desire to rein in corporate behaviour. To make matters worse, I don’t think they see a buck in serving the Canadian market for socially responsible investment. So when measured against European and American markets, this is not exactly fertile ground for ethical investors.

If share ownership is something appropriate for a portion of your savings, but the thought of investing in a mutual fund that owns tailings ponds and slag heaps disturbs you, then I sympathize. But don’t despair. If you do your homework, you can still uncover alternatives Continue…

SRI Stock Options (Part 2)

Take it from someone who has focused on the subject for the last decade and then some. If you want to be a ‘socially responsible’ investor these days, there is little reason to feel enthused by what the financial industry has to offer.

BP, for example, has over the years appeared on many so-called ‘ethical’ investment lists. Why? Probably because they talked a great game about wind and solar and ‘Beyond Petroleum’, much better than Exxon at least. But the talk has since been exposed as mostly hot air. Continue…

SRI Stock Options (Part 1 in a Series)

The ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has brought a basic principle of SRI into clear focus. Companies that ignore environmental and social risks put their financial bottom line in peril. BP’s shares are on a downwards spiral and now worth half of their pre-spill value. The lower the share price falls, the better the lesson will be learned.

This leads me to be reading a prospectus for a long established Canadian Environment Fund. The company offers Continue…

Shades of Green

These are fascinating times for those of us working in the field of Socially Responsible Investment (SRI). The themes surrounding SRI have been evolving for almost 50 years now – from Ralph Nader’s fight on behalf of auto safety standards in the 60’s, to faith-based campaigns to divest from South African businesses in the 70’s, to the creation of investment management teams in the 80’s and 90’s that screened and engaged companies on behalf of the common values of shareholders.

Yet until very recently SRI was confined to the fringes of investment management, particularly here in Canada. Now there are shades and nuances that go beyond the original intent of influencing corporate behaviour, Continue…

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