By Brooke Petersen and Emily Carson
Biblical and Theological Reflections:
A feeling is discomfort often overcomes many of us when the time for the yearly stewardship campaign begins in our congregations. Talking about money is difficult- living as if the church and our religious lives are separate from our financial lives makes everything more comfortable. Unfortunately, many of us are living in a state of abundance, and we are called by God to share that abundance with the church and those in need. In addition, stewardship of our own personal finances includes taking a good look at where we invest our money. Socially responsible and green investments allow us to “vote with out wallets”, to invest in companies and corporations that promote the kind of world where we can see God breaking into our reality. Socially Responsible Investing and Green Investing provides a place for our investments to make a statement about our faith lives. As a people called to promote justice and peace for all creation we can direct our investments into companies that live out this kind of commitment.
We are called by God to be good stewards of our time, talents, and money. Spending and saving money wisely is very important and a continual part of our earthly existence. We invest money, both personally and congregationally, knowing that we cannot permanently store up treasures on earth. However, we realize that money can be used in appropriate and God-affirming ways. Investing money into environmentally and socially conscious companies and funds is a form of stewardship. This portion of the manual will provide basic investment background information as well as resources to utilize when making both personal and congregational investments.
Introduction to Investments:
Financial investments, for both personal and congregational use, come in a variety of forms. Here are a variety of terms that are useful in a discussion of investments:
Financial Provider/Financial Assistant: This is the person that will be in charge of your investments. It is very important to look at the qualifications and background of your financial planner before investing any money with that individual. Frequently your initial consultation with a financial provider is free, so take advantage of this and make sure to “shop around” until you find a financial provider that shares your values and understands your environmental concerns.
Stocks: Buying stock refers to an individual become a partial owner of a company. When the company’s profits increase, the investor makes additional money. When the company’s profits decrease, the investor loses money. Stocks fluctuate daily, so they are not considered a particularly “safe” investment. They can, however, provide very high returns if the company does well.
Bonds: Bonds are categorized as a “fixed-income” security. When a person purchases a bond, he/she is
in reality lending out money to a company or government. The company/government then promises to pay back the loan with interest. Bonds are often thought to be a relatively risk-free investment if the company or government is stable.
Mutual Funds: A mutual fund is an investment company that combines the funds of its individual members into a variety of stocks and bonds. The profits are then split between the members. The investors place their money into the fund with specific goals in mind.
What are environmentally friendly investments?
Every time you spend money, you are making some type of investment. You invest in the products you buy, the companies that create the products, and the stores in which the products are purchased. In addition, anytime you save money, you are also making an investment. You invest in the banks in which you hold accounts and the companies through which you make investments. It is possible to be environmentally conscious in both personal and congregational investments. Eco-friendly investments are sometimes termed socially conscious investments.
The ELCA Board of Pensions currently makes it possible invest in socially responsible companies. These investments, or social purpose funds, allow the investor certainty that their pensions funds are in-line with the mission of the ELCA. The Board of Pension web-site states the following:
Social purpose funds
Social investing uses “screens” to exclude some companies as potential investments, and to select other investments with particular social value. The Board of Pensions uses social investment criteria linked directly to the social statements of this church. The ELCA social purpose companion funds limit investments in companies that are engaged in these businesses:
• harmful products or services such as tobacco, distilled alcohol, pornography or gambling
• those that research or develop nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, or manage U.S. government-owned facilities for such weapons
• those with significant toxic waste releases, hazardous waste sites, or environmental penalties or liabilities, and major producers of toxic chemicals
At the same time, we seek investments that benefit community economic development or the environment. For example, we make prudent investments with for-profit and not-for-profit financial institutions that promote the economic development of urban and rural communities characterized by a high concentration of low-income and ethnic communities. We also make investments in women- and minority-owned businesses and sustainable forestry.
"Many people have heard the notion of “voting with your wallet.” When congregations make purchasing and investment choices, they’re casting votes for the ways in which businesses operate. Whether they know it or not, all consumers can cast their buying/investing votes toward businesses and technologies that lessen negative impacts on God’s creation. They can use their buying/investing power to support businesses that work to promote social justice and ecological sustainability. The resources listed below will increase your knowledge of these impacts and how to support businesses and technologies that help solve – rather than cause – ecological and social problems."
Co-op America’s logo summarizes their mission nicely: “economic action for a just planet.” Co-op America is a non-profit organization dedicated to: “harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.” There are many resources available through the site in regards to responsible shopping, social investing, and financial planning.
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR):
This organization is made up of over 275 separate organizations, ranging from religious denominations to hospitals, that believe in economic justice, stewardship of the Earth, working for peace, and ethical corporate policies. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a member. The core values of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility are faithfulness, justice, integrity, and inclusiveness. Before buying products from or investing in any company, it would be wise to do a search through ICCR’s database to check for any outstanding shareholder resolutions which have not been met.
Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES):
This organization is a coalition of “investment funds, environmental organizations and other public interest groups working to advance environmental stewardship on the part of businesses.” The work of the organization falls into 4 main categories including: company programs, industry programs, investor programs, and sustainability reporting. The site contains valuable information on companies which are members of CERES.
Ministry of Money
Ministry of Money is an organization to explore our connections with our financial resources and how to live as a people of integrity with those resources. They state, “Money is a paradox in our culture - it enslaves, yet it also frees; it is intensely private, but it is also very public; it measures worth, yet it is no measure of real worth; it destroys yet also creates. Ministry of Money offers weekend retreats, pilgrimages to developing countries, a quarterly newsletter and special-topic one-day workshops in an attempt to help individuals explore, understand and address issues of money and faith in their own lives, as well as in their families, political systems, institutions, and world.”
Green Money Journal
“The GreenMoney Journal encourages and promotes the awareness of socially & environmentally responsible business, investing and consumer resources in publications & online. Our goal is to educate and empower individuals and businesses to make informed financial decisions through aligning their personal, corporate and financial principles.”
Social Investment Forum
This organization is committed to socially responsible investing and you can access help, articles, and studies related to green and social investments at their website.
Light Green Advisors
Focused strictly on green investments, this website can provide you with resources and services to invest your money in ecologically responsible companies.
Environmentally Friendly Investment Funds:
Domini Social Investments:
Pax World Funds:
Rocky Mountain Humane Investing:
ELCA Board of Pensions