Presbyterian Faith-Based Investing
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) believes that church investment is more than a practical question. It is also “an instrument of mission and includes theological, social and economic considerations” (183rd General Assembly, UPCUSA, 1971). This belief flows from our understanding of the stewardship of God’s resources entrusted to the church. Thus, “we confess that the Lord is really the acknowledged Master of our entire life-moral, physical and material” (116th General Assembly, PCUS, 1976).
Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI), was created in recognition of the church’s unique opportunity to advance its mission faithfully and creatively through the financial resources entrusted it. MRTI implements the General Assembly’s policies on socially responsible investing (also called faith-based investing) by engaging corporations in which the church owns stock. This is accomplished through correspondence, dialogue, voting shareholder proxies and recommending similar action to others, and occasionally filing shareholder resolutions. The General Assembly’s investment policy identifies specific concerns that MRTI is to promote: pursuit of peace; racial, social and economic justice; environmental responsibility and securing women’s rights. MRTI prioritizes issues on these concerns from requests by ecumenical partners, mid councils, and congregations.
Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment
MRTI enjoys the full participation and support of the Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Foundation. Assets under their management, including those of the Foundation-sponsored family of New Covenant mutual funds, are managed according to General Assembly guidelines, in as much as is legally permitted. In addition to the Board of Pensions and Foundation trustees, MRTI has elected members from the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns, Advocacy Committee on Racial Ethnic Concerns, Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, and three at-large representatives. You can view the Committee Procedures here.
Who Serves on MRTI?
Joseph Kinard, Chair, Board of Pensions
Sharon Davison, Vice-Chair, Member At-large
Rev. Lindley DeGarmo, Board of Pensions
Rev. Joseph Morrow, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Rev. Roger Gench, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Rev. Richard White, New Covenant Trust Company
Elizabeth Dunning, Presbyterian Foundation
Steven Webb, Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy
Rev. Michelle Hwang, Advocacy Committee on Racial and Ethnic Concerns
Vacant, Advocacy Committee on Women’s Concerns
Rev. Bill Levering, Member At-Large
George Philips, Member At-Large
Tools of Faith-Based Investing
Faith-based investing uses the three pillars of socially responsible investing—screening, shareholder advocacy, and community investing—to express faithful stewardship of investment resources.
Screening means selecting investments that meet criteria based on our faith values. Some churches and individuals employ “positive” screens that seek out companies for investment based on their approach to environmental responsibility, fair-hiring practices and efforts to support international human rights standards. Others use “negative” screens that may include alcohol, tobacco, gambling and the production of war materials, among others. Research enables concerned investors to make informed choices to invest in companies thatcome closest to their values.
Screening in the PC(USA) begins with policies of the General Assembly and the investing agencies of the church to avoid investments in companies involved in tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and pornography along with for-profit prisons, and some companies related to weapons production, antipersonnel and mines, handguns and assault weapons. In addition, at times a company involved in serious human rights violations may also be screened. The investment managers retained by the investing agencies for their expertise in specific areas then select stocks from the universe of non-screened companies according to their mandated responsibility.
Corporate engagement combines our voices as investors to leverage a call for socially responsible corporate policies and practices. Shareholders, as the owners of the corporation, have a variety of options—and the responsibility—to influence the behavior of a company in which they hold stock.
Through dialogue and meetings with company management, shareholders try to directly encourage more responsible levels of corporate citizenship. If initial attempts at dialogue or communication with a company fail, institutions or individuals can file a shareholder proposal, to be voted on at that company’s annual shareholder meeting. A shareholder proposal is a recommendation or request that a company and/or its board of directors take a particular action relevant to company policy.
All investors then have the opportunity to speak out on key issues through the votes they cast on shareholder resolutions appearing on their proxy ballots in advance of the company annual meeting. Proxies not voted by shareholders are almost always automatically credited to the company’s recommendation, which is usually a vote against the shareholder proposal.
MRTI is involved in shareholder advocacy to encourage companies to protect the most vulnerable, care for creation, and promote peace. Recent dialogues have led to an agreement by Wells Fargo to end payday lending, staff training programs at Hilton and Wyndham Hotels to recognize the trafficking of children for sexual exploitation, and the establishment of a greenhouse gas emission reduction goal by Conoco-Phillips. Shareholder resolutions have been filed in the field of human rights, corporate accountability, health care, environmental responsibility, and more.
MRTI Implementation of 222nd General Assembly Directive
To help MRTI implement its directive from the 222nd General Assembly as well as evaluate the progress it makes with companies engaged in conversations around environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, the committee approved this document in June 2017.
Community investing provides financial capital for economic development in communities that are often overlooked or excluded by traditional financial structures. Community banks, credit unions, and loan funds, along with other community-based businesses, build opportunity by helping to provide market-based jobs, housing and local services. Designating a portion of investment capital for community investing supports the building of sustainable economies in communities where it is needed most.
In a similar vein, the Assembly called for Positive Investment in Israel-Palestine, as part of an effort to create conditions for peace in the region. The Presbyterian Foundation has implemented this effort through a series of investments there including construction loans, microfinance, and direct investment.
MRTI Resources For Active Ownership of Invested Funds
Screening List. Each year MRTI produces this list based on the General Assembly’s divestment policies. Download current list.
Divestment strategy. The General Assembly has given guidance about when divestment is appropriate. Download the Divestment as an Ethical Strategy document here.
Proxy Voting Recommendations. Each year MRTI reviews a large number of shareholder resolutions that concern social and ethical issues related to the corporation’s business operations and policies. MRTI makes recommendations for Presbyterian shareholders based on the mission goals and policies of the General Assembly. Download 2017 Proxy Recommendations.
Sample Socially Responsible Investment Policies. These are actual policies of Presbyterian congregations, and can be adopted or adapted for a congregation’s or other institution’s permanent funds or endowment. Click here to request sample policies.
Additional Resources for Faith-Based and Socially Responsible Investing
Board of Pensions | www.pensions.org
Presbyterian Foundation | www.presbyterianfoundation.org
New Covenant Funds | www.newcovenantfunds.com
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility | www.iccr.org
The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment | www.ussif.org
Green America | www.greenamerica.org
Ceres | www.ceres.org
As You Sow | www.asyousow.org
Interfaith Worker Justice | www.iwj.org