How to Invest

If you are invested in any of the companies on our database, we urge you to do something about it. As an investor, you have the responsibility as well as the power to take action. In most instances we do not advocate a specific action. You may have different options depending on the level of control you have over your investments. Institutional investors typically wield more influence and have more capacity to engage companies than individual investors. On the other hand, individual investors who manage their own money typically have more freedom to make decisions about their investments.

Regardless of your position, we hope you will join us in our work to create better and new standards for corporate and investor social responsibility. We strive to make the information on this website as helpful as possible for investors of all kinds. Please contact us with any feedback, questions, or concerns.

Institutional Investors

We hope that the information we provide would allow institutional investors decide on appropriate actions they could take, ranging from shareholder engagement and proxy voting to divestment.

We do recommend divestment from a limited number of companies. Our criteria include the salience and significance of the harmful business activities as well as the companies' responsiveness to past engagement attempts. We routinely examine relevant developments with the goal of keeping our divestment recommendation list up-to-date. Several institutional investors are following our information and divestment recommendations as a guide for their decision making.

We recognize that divestment requires work and may incur additional costs. We have experience working with institutional investors, helping them in this process and discussing their options. Sometimes this requires changing an institution's investment policy, and we can help you craft and propose changes to the policy that would bring it in line with the world’s most ethical investors, without compromising on performance. For example, your institution may implement divestment gradually, or may put certain securities in a do-not-buy list, without selling any securities immediately.

As for other companies in our database, we hope you would join us in engaging them about our shared concerns over their business activities. Many institutional investors have a policy preferring engagement over divestment, but they never follow through on their intention to engage. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is itself an institutional investor, whose investment policy includes both divestment and engagement. We are members in several investor networks that specialize in corporate engagement, including the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and the Investor Alliance for Human Rights.

We appreciate your intention to make your organization’s portfolio more ethical. We would love to hear from you about your struggles with divestment as well as general feedback about our research and the information we provide.

 

Individual Investors

Whether you have a personal investment portfolio that you control or are invested through a retirement plan, it is your money and you can and should have a say in how it is invested.

The first step is knowing what you own:

  • If you have an investment advisor who manages your investments, ask for a list of your most current holdings. You might be getting it in the mail periodically. If it is a list of stocks, scan it using our “Upload a list of holding” tool.
  • If you are invested mostly in funds, search for them under “Lookup a fund.”If you are invested through an employer-provided retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, you are most likely invested in funds rather than direct stock holdings. Ask the company that administers your retirement fund which funds are included in your plan. This information may be readily available online. Then use our fund search tool to find out what companies you own.

If you have an investment advisor, ask for a meeting to share what you have learned about your holdings and to ask to align your investments with your values. It is your advisor’s job to help you with that. Any investment professional will advise you of the potential risks this change may have. They might argue that making these changes would compromise your returns. Still, it is your decision to make. You can also seek to replace your financial advisor with one that specializes in Socially Responsible Investing (SRI).

If you have a 401(k)/403(b) plan and you find that you are invested in companies you do not want to be invested in, check what other options are offered through your employer. There might already be a fund that suits your needs. Remember that fund holdings change with time. You can check the fund investment policy, which is typically available on the website of the fund manager, to see what companies are routinely included and excluded from this fund. You may also need to run our search periodically, about once a year, to make sure the fund still works for you. The fund might buy stocks in new companies, or we might add to our database a company the fund is already invested in.

If your employer does not offer any fund that meets your ethical standards, you can ask to add such an option. This may require organizing with your coworkers, as your employer is much more likely to respond favourably to a group of employees rather than just one. For larger companies, creating a coalition of concerned employees might be crucial to achieving this goal. Some large companies have an investment committee, a corporate responsibility officer, or an employee engagement manager, and you may need to engage them on this issue.

Still, adding new fund choices to the options of an existing retirement plan is a long process, or not happen at all. If you find a fund that is invested in only one or two problematic companies, you can contact the plan administrator and have them ask the fund manager to find an ethical substitute for these companies.

Please contact us with any questions or concerns. We would also love to hear your feedback.