Raleigh Parish Offers Lecture on Socially Responsible Investing

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Franciscan Coalition for Justice and Peace, a ministry of St. Francis of Assisi Parish here, offered a lecture June 17 that discussed how to invest with minimum risk, while doing good for others and getting a decent return.

Mathias Doyle, OFM
, director of the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., described the meaning of socially responsible investing (SRI), including its  history and primary purpose.

He spoke about the three main strategies of SRI, (1) negative and positive screens, (2) shareholder advocacy, and (3) community investing.

“I told a couple of stories of SRI successes in the case of a single mother in Tajikistan and the Nobel Prize winner Mohammed Yunus in Bangladesh, emphasizing that the purpose of SRI is to protect one’s investment, and to use assets to broaden and deepen positive social change,” Mathias said.

SRI Popular
“I also gave some facts that show that SRI is the fastest growing segment of overall investments in the U.S., and that its performance compares favorably with traditional fund indexes. I explained the three strategies of SRI — how a young man in Rensselaer County, N.Y., near Siena, and a church transformed the lives of Africans in Kenya through community investing.”

Socially responsible investing must begin with ourselves and how we take responsibilities for our assets, Mathias said.

“Whether in personal portfolios, retirement funds, or other methods, we can both turn a profit and effectively promote social change consistent with Christian values. In 2003, the U.S. Catholic Bishops proposed two principles that should guide all investment decisions: responsible financial stewardship and ethical stewardship. SRI is a way to invest money, make a profit ethically, and effect both systemic and individual change.”

He included several practical suggestions about how one can begin focusing on SRI, including talking to a financial advisor, investing in socially responsible companies, depositing funds in a micro-lending institution and acting as an active shareholder.

Money & Justice
“Money talks,” he said. “We want our money to talk our language and work for justice,” he said.

Mathias, a member of the Province’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Directorate, is chair of the Development Committee and Access to Capital Working Group of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, based in Washington, D.C.

The lecture was one in a series offered by Raleigh’s Franciscan Coalition, directed by Megan Nerz. She said this program offered parishioners a way to see that “even in the midst of discouraging economic forecasts, people can make little decisions  that can go a long way for the common good.”

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.