Ethical Mutual Funds – A Better Way to Invest?

The following is a condensed, less academic excerpt of a paper I recently wrote for my final graduate course. It also represents the completion of Task #3 on my 9-Week Productivity Challenge and the beginning of a series of posts here on Earth and Money related the social and environmental impacts of our investments. The series began unofficially two weeks ago with a look at an emerging type of investment vehicle, community bonds, and last week, introduced how we might be funding our own demise, and what corporate social responsibility represents.

In 1992, Michael Jantzi founded Jantzi Research Inc., an investment research firm created to monitor the social, environmental and governance performance of publicly traded Canadian companies. Jantzi used a best-of-sector approach to rank companies relative to each other and to industry best practices. The fundamental problem with such an approach is that a company only has to be better than their peers in order to achieve a high ranking. This can result in a company that is not by most definitions “socially responsible” being labelled as such only because their peers are even less socially responsible than they are.

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The Value of the Corporate Social Responsibility Label

Do Something Good Every Day | Source: HowardLake on Flickr via CC BY-SA 2.0 LicenceThe following is a condensed, less academic excerpt of a paper I recently wrote for my final graduate course. It also represents the completion of Task #3 on my 9-Week Productivity Challenge and the beginning of a series of posts here on Earth and Money related the social and environmental impacts of our investments. The series began unofficially two weeks ago with a look at an emerging type of investment vehicle, community bonds, and Monday, introduced how we might be funding our own demise.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a major buzzword in the corporate sector. It is generally defined as the integration of social, environmental and economic concerns into the values and operations of a company, in such a way that all three are given equal weighting. In a 2012 study conducted by Taiyuan Wang and Pratima Bansal at the University of Western Ontario, they defined a socially responsible corporation as one whose actions “further the social good, outstrip the firm’s economic goals, and go beyond the legal requirement”.  They also explored relationship between CSR, financial success, and long-term versus short-term corporate orientation. They found that corporate social responsibility activities tended to result in negative financial outcomes in the short-term, but that this negative outcome could be negated by long-term corporate orientation, and that such long-term outlook was positively correlated with financial success.

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Are We Funding Our Own Demise?

Daisy Demise | Source: jumpinjimmyjava on Flickr under CC By 2.0 LicenceThe following is a condensed, less academic excerpt of a paper I recently wrote for my final graduate course. It also represents the completion of Task #3 on my 9-Week Productivity Challenge and the beginning of a series of posts here on Earth and Money related the social and environmental impacts of our investments. The series began unofficially two weeks ago with a look at an emerging type of investment vehicle, community bonds.

Basic economics would dictate that public demand drives the success and failure of various enterprises. A company can only sell a product if someone desires it (though through good marketing, they can manufacture that desire as well). However, while average Canadians make greater strides towards environmental consciousness, they may be undoing their own efforts by bankrolling the very companies they are boycotting or attempting to avoid with their investments. In a nutshell, Canadians (and quite frankly, citizens worldwide) are funding their own demise by supporting companies which create unhealthy environments. This, in and of itself, is a major environmental health problem that has been grossly overlooked in the current environmental movement. When a consumer goes out of their way to purchase organic foods, what purpose does that serve if they have their money invested in companies that seek to produce unsustainable, pesticide-laced foods which only drive up the price of the very organic foods that they want to purchase?

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