It’s a conundrum faced by many Catholics investing for retirement or other financial goals: how to pursue positive investment returns while also acting upon their beliefs and values. Many worry that they’ll need to accept lower returns if they invest based on moral tenets (not so) or whether the main pathway to success is simply to avoid “sin stocks” (not so, either).
Fortunately, these investors can find clear guidance in the Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The Guidelines offer a clear, concise summary of strategies the church uses to invest its assets based on Catholic principles.
As one might expect, the Guidelines discuss “doing no harm” by avoiding certain stocks, while striving to invest in companies that “do good” in some way. But, there’s a great deal more to consider. The USCCB Guidelines explore such crucial priorities as:
- Protecting human life – by excluding investment in companies whose activities involve abortion or contraception, embryonic stem cell or fetal tissue research, or human cloning.
- Promoting human dignity – by promoting shareholder resolutions that protect human rights, divesting of companies involved in racial or gender discrimination, supporting access to life-sustaining drugs among poorer populations, and excluding purveyors of pornography.
- Reducing arms production – by avoiding investment in firms primarily engaged in producing military weapons and land mines.
- Pursuing economic justice – by promoting shareholder resolutions directed towards avoiding use of sweatshops in manufacturing, and refraining depositing funds in banks that receive less than a “satisfactory” rating under the Community Reinvestment Act.
- Protecting the environment – promoting shareholder resolutions that encourage ecological preservation, address poverty in the poorest nations, create environmentally sensitive technologies, and pursue related aims.
- Encouraging social responsibility – encouraging companies to report on social, environmental, as well as financial performance.
The Guidelines offer Catholics a broad view of the opportunities to invest for positive effect in the world through a prudent, common-sense philosophy.