Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Faith and the bottom line

Laura Berry

[Baass Sowa, Carol. "Socially responsible investing coming into its own," Today's Catholic, 23 May 2008.]

In this recent article from Today's Catholic, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility executive director Laura Berry discusses the connection between her Catholic faith and her work on SRI issues:

"When Laura Berry, now executive director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), worked on Wall Street as a portfolio manager, institutional clients with justice goals were routinely shuttled her way. 'I was actually enthusiastic about investing this way,' says Berry, who grew up Catholic, with a strong sense of social justice. 'Many of the more traditional investment managers at the time,' she notes, 'thought it was: 'You go to church on Sunday and you worry about investing your money Monday through Friday.' I didn't see it that way.'

"'More and more, powerful institutional investors are starting to look backwards at some of the things that faith investors have been talking about for a long time,' she says. A recent study by the Association of British Insurers on governance issues discovered that good corporate governance adds around 36 basis points to portfolio returns per month. Other studies are revealing similar results, with a U.S. study on governance, done in the wake of ENRON and WorldCom, when companies could no longer opt out of certain governance rules, has indicated gains in investment returns of around 70 basis points when good governance practices are followed.

"Berry is confident that as science gets more sophisticated in measuring such things, it will confirm what faith-based investors have been saying all along — that companies can act morally and still be successful. 'The Creator set us up that when we did good, things would work better,' she says.

"'When you think about just about any faith tradition, not just our own, they say things like: Love the Creator, love each other, take care of the globe.' She notes that we as Catholics don’t need science to prove to us this is the right way to do things; it is part of our social justice tradition.

"'I try to remind myself it’s not my time, it’s God’s time,' she says of the gains made by socially responsible investing. 'I’m here for a reason,' she adds. 'I’ll be doing this as long as I’m doing it and, hopefully, somebody will pick it up after I am gone.'"

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