Sunday, November 21, 2010

USCCB Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines - Part 1: Introduction

Hello!  This multi-part series will be on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop's (USCCB) Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines.  In this post, I will give a brief introduction of what it is exactly.  The following posts will look into the 6 areas that the USCCB's investment policy covers.

What is it?
In the United States, there are 194 Catholic dioceses.  Each diocese is run by an archbishop, and he has auxiliary bishops who help him out.  The USCCB is essentially an organization of all of the Catholic bishops in the US.  It is sort of like the government.  As cynics will note, the Catholic Church is rich and has a huge amount of money at their disposal.  That is probably true, but it is also serving 68 million people in that country!  Just as other organizations with a lot of capital, the USCCB has to invest its money such that it keeps pace with inflation and perhaps grow it as well.  This is where ethical investing or socially responsible investing, as the Conference calls it, comes into play.  The Conference does not own the assets, but rather, they are stewards of the assets of the Church.  So, it must direct these assets to good and morally beneficial use.

The first half of the guideline provides the principles used in the document, and I encourage you to read it.  However, I will not focus on this portion.  I will, however, put emphasis on the second half of the document, which deals with the investment policies themselves.  This part has more relevance to the individual investor when he/she is making an investment decision.

USCCB Investment Policies
I will now list out the "table of contents" for the investment policies:

  1. Protecting Human Life
    • Abortion
    • Contraceptives
    • Embryonic Stem Cell / Human Cloning
  2. Promoting Human Dignity
    • Human Rights
    • Racial Discrimination
    • Gender Discrimination
    • Access to Pharmaceuticals
    • Curbing Pornography
  3. Reducing Arms Production
    • Production and Sale of Weapons
    • Antipersonnel Landmines
  4. Pursuing Economic Justice
    • Labor Standards / Sweatshops
    • Affordable Housing / Banking
  5. Protecting the Environment
  6. Encouraging Corporate Responsibility
In the upcoming posts, I will be dealing with each of these in greater depth, and will try to find examples of companies that work for these causes and also those which against them. Stay tuned!