Responsible investing doesn’t just mean screening out gambling, drugs and weapons. As the investment manager for over 390 Quaker organizations, Friends Fiduciary also does something called “shareholder advocacy”—talking with companies about how they can be more just, peaceful and equitable in their business practices.
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Christina Repoley: Quakers care about how our money is invested because we don’t see a distinction between our religious values and our social values and our economic values. We believe in equality and peace and nonviolence in every aspect of our lives, and so the way that our money is spent and invested has just as much of an impact in how our values are lived in the world as any other aspect of our day-to-day lives, or our social or political lives.
Investing the Quaker Way
Minerva Glidden: My name is Minerva Glidden, and I live in Orlando, Florida, and I’m a member of Orlando Monthly Meeting. We recently sold a piece of property that the meeting had owned, and we looked around for a place where to best use that money so that it would reflect our values and absolutely earn us some money. We discerned and really had to thresh it a little bit, but Friends Fiduciary was the best fit for us and our money.
Jeff Perkins: Friends Fiduciary is a Quaker nonprofit investment management organization that invests funds for other Quaker organizations in a manner that’s consistent with Quaker values and beliefs.
Screening Out, Screening In
Christina Repoley: Quaker Voluntary Service decided to invest our funds with Friends Fiduciary corporation, instead of any of the other options that were available to us, because we knew that Friends Fiduciary corporation has done the really hard back-end work of screening our investments.
Jeff Perkins: First we screen out those companies that produce goods or services that Friends simply cannot support, and that Friends do not want to profit from. Those are companies that produce weapons, weapons components, that produce alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and companies that run gambling operations and for-profit prisons.
We then positively screen in those companies in the remaining sectors, the financial services sectors—so the banks, etc.—that have the better ESG record, and ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance record.
Minerva Glidden: People will say when we started talking about money in this meeting, “We don’t want prisons and we don’t want fossil fuels and we don’t want whiskey, we don’t want drugs, we don’t want tobacco…” What we didn’t want. What we didn’t sit down and say is what we do want, and that’s what Friends Fiduciary brought to the table for us.
Jeff Perkins: When you’re a shareholder in a company, you’re actually an owner in that company, and I believe and we believe at Friends Fiduciary that as owners, we have both rights and we have responsibilities.
Kate Monahan: We talk to companies about many different issues, from food waste to methane reduction, to how they’re doing their lending and financing with banks. When we engage with a company, we’re coming to them with a Quaker-values perspective and also a business case, because we really believe that Quaker values are good long-term business values.
Jeff Perkins: That process of engaging with companies is called “shareholder advocacy,” and we believe as Friends that shareholder advocacy is a continuing witness to our Quaker values in the investments in which we’ve made.
Minerva Glidden: Shareholder advocacy was a very strong point for us. Once that was brought to our attention, that was very strong, because to use our money to change the world, to use that capital as human capital, as capital to stand by our testimonies, was very important to this meeting.
A Quaker Approach to Change
Christina Repoley: Corporations are made up of people. When we engage in that kind of advocacy work even when it feels like we might not be having an immediate impact, I think we’re doing that from a core belief that there is that of God in every person, that every person is capable of finding that place of compassion and divine love within themselves and other people.
Kate Monahan: If a company reduces its methane, that means something to the people living around the natural gas extraction site, it means something for the environment. And I think for us at Friends Fiduciary we are in a position to make that happen because we’re coming to companies with this unique voice. We’re investors and we can talk to companies in a language that they understand, because we have that business grounding, but we’re also Quakers and we can also come at this from a place of wanting to express our Quaker values and to make those real in the world.
Christina Repoley: The concept of “speaking truth to power” is relevant here. Corporations are huge and powerful, but if we are dedicated to speaking truth to power in the world, that’s another area where we can have the opportunity to speak truth. It may be that our impact isn’t felt for a long time, but that’s been true of our history. We’ve stuck with what we perceive to be true and we’ve spoken our truth even to the most powerful people and corporations and situations in the world. That’s just a part of our tradition and this is another opportunity for us to practice that speaking truth to power.
- Do you have experience with investing money? Have you tried to be intentional about which companies you invest in? Why or why not?
- Christina Repoley says that Quakers care about how our money is invested because we “believe in equality and peace and nonviolence in every aspect of our lives and so the way that our money is spent and invested has just as much of an impact in how our values are lived in the world as any other aspect of our day-to-day lives or our social or political lives.” Do you agree? What do you think is the impact of being conscious about how our money is invested?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.