By guest blogger the Rev. Kaari Reierson, contractor for ELCA corporate social responsibility program
Many of us have money socked away in pension funds, saved for education or invested for retirement. We probably thought pretty hard while we were saving that money, but how much do we know about where it is now? What do these investments produce and by what means? Through pension funds or personal investments, we may be supporting corporations which act in good faith and employ best practices, and we may be supporting business activities which harm people and the environment.
Personal ownership of shares gives you economic power as an investor and opportunity for exercising stewardship.
“The biblical understanding of stewardship is that what we have does not ultimately belong to us. We are called to be stewards of what God has given for the sake of all. This stewardship includes holding economic, political, and social processes and institutions responsible for producing and distributing what is needed for sufficiency for all.” ELCA social statement on Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All, page 11
Shareholder votes can encourage best practices by corporations, affirming good corporate citizenship and forward-thinking financial decisions. The next time your shareholder resolutions arrive, look closely. Are there requests for reports from the board that seem fair and reasonable? Are there requests that the governance of a corporation be inclusive and transparent?
The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program of the ELCA encourages corporations through shareholder and other activity to act in socially and environmentally responsible ways.
CSR develops standards for individual and institutional investors that align with ELCA social teaching. There are some products and services the ELCA advises against investing in at all because of the harm they inflict on people and the environment. CSR maintains investment screens found from elca.org/csr regarding: alcohol, community development, the environment, gambling, military weapons, political and civil human rights, pornography, private prisons and tobacco. CSR issue papers explore social issues as they pertain to corporate behavior and illustrate the kinds of shareholder resolutions that ELCA social teaching could support, which can also be found from elca.org/csr.
Portico Benefit Services, which provides retirement, health and related benefits for those who serve through the ELCA, offers Social Purpose funds that are invested in line with the ELCA’s mission.* Through ownership of stocks, Portico signs on to shareholder resolutions, issues its own requests to the Boards of Directors and participates in corporate dialogues.
Stewardship means using all we have been given for the good of all. The CSR program does this on behalf of the ELCA. CSR tools, including the new CSR Overview resource, can help you do this for yourself as well.
* Before investing in any fund, you should carefully consider its target asset allocations, investment objectives, risks, charge and expenses. All funds, including ELCA funds, are subject to risk and uncertainty. Past performance cannot be used to predict future performance. ELCA funds are not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Fund assets are invested in multiple sectors of the market. Some sectors may perform below expectations and lose money over short or extended periods. See the ELCA Investment Fund Descriptions for more information about our funds.
Neither Portico Benefit Services nor the funds it manages are subject to registration, regulation or reporting under the Investment Company Act of 1940, the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 or state securities laws. Members, therefore, will not be afforded the protections of those laws and related regulations.