Paving the Way for Socially Responsible Investing
Amy Domini, Domini Social Investments and Joan Bavaria, Trillium Asset Management Corporation
The financial industry isn’t known for being especially caring, but after years of working with investors, Amy Domini and Joan Bavaria found that they cared about a lot more than just money. Socially responsible investing (SRI) is based on the idea that the way you invest your money matters, and that investments should be in line with the values of the individual or corporation that makes them.
Domini, who founded Domini Social Investments in 1991, began questioning investment practices while working as a stockbroker in the 1970’s. “When I was asked to recommend a company that was on the verge of getting a big military contract, I realized I didn’t want to ask the caring people who were my clients to invest in killing machines,” she says.
Joan Bavaria had a similar experience, leading her to create Trillium Asset Management Corporation, the first investment management firm solely dedicated to socially responsible investing. Since founding the firm in 1982, she’s seen SRI change not only the way people invest, but also the way companies run their businesses.
SRI has also emerged as an important vehicle for consumers to demand that corporations operate ethically. Since 1987 Trillium has filed or co-filed over 200 shareholder resolutions. Domini has filed more than 140 shareholder resolutions since 1994, convincing companies like Apple and JPMorgan Chase to adopt more fair and sustainable policies. “We ask companies the questions that no one else is asking, putting important issues on the table for discussion,” says Domini.
In 2003, another SRI pioneer, SVN co-founder Wayne Silby and his firm Calvert Fund, filed 20 shareholder resolutions with major U.S. corporations. Seven were immediately withdrawn after the companies agreed either to the terms of the resolutions or to enter into discussion with shareholders. These strong results, and similar ones in the following years, indicate a sea change; corporations today are becoming more receptive to consumer demands in the form of shareholder resolutions.
Organizations like Responsible Wealth, a network of socially conscious high-income individuals, are also using shareholder resolutions to advocate for more equitable wealth distribution and to ensure that issues like fair corporate taxation, living wages, employee ownership, and greater corporate accountability are being addressed by today’s companies.
As the number of SRI funds continues to grow, SVN members are at the forefront of change, leading the way at renowned organizations like Calvert, PaxWorld Funds, Portfolio 21, Winslow Management, and Progressive Asset Management.