Roots of SRI
In the Beginning
The origins of ethical investing can be traced to early biblical times, when Jewish law laid down many directives on how to invest ethically, treat slaves equitably, tax fairly and loan money in a non-usurious manner. Many of the reform minded denominations have been leaders in this area. In the mid-1700s the founder of Methodism John Wesley, even went so far as to claim that the use of money was the second most important subject of New Testament teachings. As many small Christian sects settled North America, some brought with them strict norms with respect to how money should be used. Dating back to the 18th century, the Quakers and the Mennonites-whose traditions embrace peace and nonviolence-have actively avoided investing in enterprises or products designed to oppress or kill fellow human beings. For example, most Quakers refused to invest in weapons and slavery. Many other religious investors over the decades have actively avoided the “sin” stocks of the alcohol tobacco and gaming industries.
Social Investing and Contemporary Culture
The modern roots of social investing can be traced to the impassioned political climate of the 1960s. With the great social awakening of that time, people began to call into question, the morality of certain types of investment practices and choices. Largely started during the Vietnam war by investors who did not want their money supporting the conflict, the socially responsible investment movement (SRI) rapidly spread as investors began screening their portfolios, zeroing in on military arms production and corporate environmental practices. Into the 1970s, a series of social and environmental movements –from civil rights and women’s rights to the antiwar and environmental movements-served to increase awareness around issues of social responsibility. These concerns also broadened to include management and labor issues, as well as antinuclear sentiment.
In 1971, the Episcopal Church and others established the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) The Jesuit Conference has been a member of ICCR in some fashion since 1975.
– Excerpt from In All Things, Fall/Winter, 2002
Church as Economic Actor
Although all members of the Church are economic actors every day of their individual lives, they also play an economic role united together as Church. On the parish and diocesan level, through its agencies and institutions, the Church employs many people; it has investments; it has extensive properties for worship and mission. All the moral principles that govern the just operation of any economic endeavor apply to the Church and its agencies and institutions, indeed the Church should be exemplary. (347)
– U.S. Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter, Economic Justice For All