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Presentation Sisters use investments to help shape policies of businesses

By Kelda J.L. Pharris

Sep 21, 2018

Presentation Sisters have a policy of investing responsibly, not just economically but also socially.

That means caring for the earth and rights of humans, including those most vulnerable, said Sister Ruth Geraets Wednesday at Presentation Convent.

One way the sisters are able to do that is by being members of the Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment. The organization helps influence companies within members’ investment portfolios so that they conduct business in a socially responsible manner.

The Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment is having its annual national meeting in Milwaukee Oct. 16. Although the sisters has been part of the coalition since the 1990s, they’ve never sent delegates to annual meetings. This year, in honor of the passing of the coalition’s founder, the Rev. Michael Crosby, Sisters Kathleen Bierne and Geraets, a coalition board member, will make the trip.

Avera Health joined the coalition about a month and will send its own delegates, which the sisters are excited about.

“I met Michael Crosby when I was in St. Louis for a seminar. I got to take him to dinner. It’s the first time, and he was telling me about how our investments should be socially responsible,” Geraets said.

Through forming the coalition, Crosby was able to instigate the elimination of the animated mascot Joe Camel from Camel cigarette ads, as well as get a climate change expert added to ExxonMobil’s board of directors.

The coalition is comprised of entities with the common goal to invest in socially responsible ways. Members look at their portfolios and see where more socially responsible investments can be made. Then, through annual proxy ballots — ballots companies extend to shareholders to make important decisions — shareholders who have at least $2,000 invested can write in resolutions or proposed changes.

The coalition “assists members in active ownership and responsible stewardship of their financial assets to get a seat at the table of the companies they invest in,” according to a news release from the coalition.

Being part of the coalition adds to each organizations’ numbers. So if multiple entities all voice the same concerns, the company tends to listen better and is more likely to take them to heart, Geraets said.

“A lot of times we are educating them and letting them know their constituents care and (environmental and social improvements) can make the bottom line more stable,” she said. “I think that their stockholders care about the environment and human rights more often than what comes out in the media.”

The Presentation Sisters keeps their own portfolio of investments. They steer completely clear of certain companies — those that are connected with providing abortions or deal with nuclear or assault weapons, for example. The ones they do invest in they know can be improved so they have less of an impact on the environment or improve working conditions.

Bierne and Geraets both spoke of working to better society and the environment. In a time when environmental and social issues are taking a backseat, there are still ways to affect change and work for the common good with entities like Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition, they said.

To learn more about The Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment please CLICK HERE