Social Investment Philosophy
We believe that a company’s long-term success is inexorably linked to a positive relationship between the company and its employees, community, and the environment. While many companies are striving to be better corporate citizens and environmental stewards, we have not yet found one that is perfect. There is always a balance between positive and negative attributes for any company. Even companies considered icons by many socially responsible investors have issues. Clients hire us to evaluate the weight of the evidence on either side of the social impact scale and make a judgment as to the acceptability of including any given company in their portfolio. If clients disagree with our judgment they are free to let us know. We will customize portfolios by excluding certain companies or entire industries for particular clients if they so request.
When judging companies from an environmental impact perspective we consider both the pollution created by the company and the importance of its product to society. Industries such as software have a minimal environmental footprint, as their product is nothing more than intellectual property that can be transmitted electronically to the customer. On the other end of the spectrum one would find gold mining companies which use a highly toxic process to extract ore of dubious necessity. We consider shares in companies where, in our opinion, the balance between the social utility of a company’s product, and the environmental repercussions of the manufacturing and distribution process, is a net positive for society.
Management Integrity and Ethics
As shareholders our clients are part owners of a business, and therefore employers of corporate management. When judging executive leadership at a company we consider the transparency of reports issued by management, how conflicts of interest are handled, and evidence of long-term planning. We avoid companies where management appears to be self-serving, deceptive, and focused largely on short-term results.
Products and Services
We choose companies that provide products and services that have a positive benefit for society in our opinion. We go further than simply avoiding companies that produce obviously harmful products such as tobacco or weapons. When analyzing the food industry we search for companies that provide healthier choices for consumers. When evaluating an industry such as steel we consider the use of recycled scrap as a raw material. While we avoid some industries entirely due to the noxious nature of their products, other businesses may be less clear from a social perspective and require a relative judgment.