Preparation

Invitation to participate in the course “Values-Based financial practices for Unitarian Universalists”

Throughout our history, UU congregations and individuals have been integrally involved in the engine of capitalism; Unitarian Universalism continues to rank among the top 3 faith traditions in per capita wealth.  And no matter what our circumstances, we have impact. Each exchange we make —  through purchases, investments, corporate or community involvement — is a statement of our values.

This class helps UUs explore financial choices — without being overwhelmed. Choice, after all, comes from a root word meaning “heresy,” and any value-based financial practice can make a difference not only in the lives of individuals but also in the maturation of our global economic systems.

Topics will be:  Introduction (economics and responsibility as applied to environmental, human rights and governance considerations); Shareholder Activism; Choices in Investments & Purchasing; Community Economies; and Resources for Further Learning. This is a hands-on class!

Materials

  1. Easel with newsprint and colored markers
  2. Access to internet connection
  3. Laptop for leader, with internet connection
  4. Projector for laptop, WITH SOUND
  5. If possible, participant access to computers so they can share web explorations in groups of no more than three. There might be computer sites around the room using personal laptops, or computers in different spaces in the home/church/society/building where the course is held.
  6. Printouts of Resources, as appropriate to diversity of group.
  7. Printouts of the Matrix, one for each person.
  8. Pens, colored pencils, crayons and clay for anyone to doodle with at any time.
  9. 9. Copies of Singing the Living Tradition

Session 1

May 5, 2010

Values-Based Financial Practices for UUs

Session 1: Introduction

Objective

Become acquainted with the learning community and the field of values-based financial practices as part of the socially responsible investment (SRI) movement.

Goal

Learn the three main branches of values-based financial practice: shareholder activism, choices in purchasing & investing, and community investments.

Opening

Leader: Welcome! Please fill out the pre-course evaluation form and hand it in [Resource 1.1]. Please note that here is an easel (or white/blackboard) in the room, where questions can be written down any time during the sessions.

Introductions:

Please say your name, and one thing you are hoping to learn in this course.

Lighting of the Chalice:

Hand out the chalice lighting readings [Resource 1.2]. Light the chalice as quotes are read, each by a different person around the circle.

We purpose of a problem is to lead us to think. –John Dewey

“This is the sum of Dharma [duty]: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” Mahabharata, 5:1517 (800 BCE – 400 CE)

That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.   Hillel (50 BCE – 10 CE)

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – Jesus (ca.1BCE – 33CE)

None of you truly believe until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself. – Muhammad (571-632 CE) Hadith [commentary]

K’ung Fu-tzu’s student asked: “Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?”
The Master replied: “How about ‘shu’ [reciprocity]: never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?”—K’ung Fu’tzu [Confucius] (ca. 551-479 BCE) Analects XV.24, tr. David Hinton

Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of they people, but thou shal love thy neighbor as thyself.  – Moses reports the words of YHWH (ca 1525-1400 BCE) Leviticus 19:18

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.” –Oscar Wilde

“The golden rule is a good standard which is further improved by doing unto others, wherever reasonable, as they want to be done by.” Ethicist Karl Popper

About the Course

Leader: This is a highly interactive resource designed to develop relationships and curiosity.  The goals for our course “Values-Based Financial Practices for UUs” are twofold:  to demonstrate beloved community through creating an environment which welcomes ranges of economic circumstances and perspectives and to become familiar with financial practices that can express your UU values in any of three forms: shareholder activism, choices in investments & purchases, and community investment.

Establish Groundrules:

Refer to your congregations’ covenant of right relations (pass out individual copies and read aloud), or create one on newsprint (e.g.,We practice respect by listening to each person without interruption; one can always pass, etc.).

Self Reflection

Pass out the personal reflection page, Resource 1.3

Leader: We’ll take a few minutes for self reflection about your own history with money.  This is your own copy, they won’t be handed in. Afterwards there will be time to share whatever you feel comfortable.

Allow 5-7 minutes for individual writing.

Put people into pairs to share at the level they feel comfortable for 5 or 10 minutes.

Leader: Let’s speak in turn around the circle and share one thing that struck you during this exercize.

The depth of history and feeling we each carry about money is to be honored and respected as integral to the unique perspective each of us brings to the group.

Introduction to Values-Based Financial Practices

Leader: This session will introduce the field of responsible economics, and to learn about the three aspects of value-based financial practices.

So many words describe this evolving field: socially responsible investing, sustainable investing, ethical economics, value-based financial practices, corporate social responsibility, business for social responsibility, sustainable responsible finances. All of them describe aspects of what we will call values-based financial practices. We will be talking about UU values as applied to our financial practices as a congregation and as individuals. There are three main ways to do this: shareholder activism, choices in purchasing and investing, and community investment.

I’m going to draw a very simple picture, the Ownership Confers Chart [Resource 1.4]. Ownership confers authority and responsibility.

Draw the chart on newsprint, talking it through as you go. Discuss briefly.

History

Leader: Another way to approach values-based financial practices is through history.  This is a power point so try not to fall asleep.  It is about SRI, the socially responsible investment movement from which the practices have evolved.

View the PowerPoint “A UU History of SRI” [Resource 1.5]. Discuss

Break

Connections

Leader: Dr. James Boyce Jr. was raised in the UU church; his parents and brother are active in UU congregations in Michigan. His scientific work in measuring pollution and correlating it to geographical areas populated primarily by people of color and of low income was inspired by his religious education.  The first words on this YouTube interview are “Martin Luther King Jr.”

Use live internet access to go to YouTube Jim Boyce UU Roots [Web Explorations 1]. View on large screen (or in small groups on individual laptops).

Leader: Jim’s work was published by USA Today in a series entitled “The Smokestack Effect” which empowers people to look up the effect of pollution on the schools in their own home towns.  USA Today can be found at every bus stop and motel and barber shop in the country – it enables populist access to the insights of sustainable and responsible economics.

Use live internet access to go to: USA Today the Smokestack Effect [Web Exploration 2].

Leader: Follow the links to the interactive map and look up your state, and your town.  Find the schools nearest to you, or to which you have some connection.

ESG (Environment, Social and Governance)

Pass out the Values-Based Financial Practices Matrix [Resource 1.6].

Leader: On the horizontal axis we find the three practices of shareholder activism, choices in purchasing or investing, and community finances.  Let’s go through one line of this matrix in light of Jim Boyce’s work.

Go through the environmental line as a whole group, brainstorming activities under shareholder activism, choices and community categories.

Explorations

Write these websites on the board, or hand out paper.

Paper options:

U.S. financial history [Resource 1.7]

Four Paths to Socially Responsible Investing [Resource 1.8]

Web options:

Ray Anderson, business owner converted to sustainability on YouTube Ray Anderson

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUG4JXE6K4A [Web Exploration 3]

Recommended web sites for explorations are:

  • socialinvest.org is the site for the trade organization of SRI [Web Exploration 4].
  • socialfunds.org is also a well respected SRI  site [Web Exploration 5].

Closing

Go around:  Please share one thing that was powerful for you during this session.

Homework:  Pay attention to what you buy this week, or major purchases you have made in this last season or this last year.  Take a look at any investments you have and see if you can discern what you own.

Sing or read the lyrics from Hymn # 121 “We’ll Build a Land” in Singing the Living Tradition.

Extinguish the chalice.

Session 2

May 5, 2010

Values-Based Financial Practices for UUs

Session 2:  Shareholder Advocacy

Objective

Become more familiar with the learning community

and with the practice of shareholder advocacy.

Goal

Learn three aspects of shareholder advocacy:

dialogue, resolutions at annual meetings and proxy voting.

Become aware of ICCR and UUA shareholder activity.

Opening

Light the Chalice, as participants read Resource 2.1.

Ethical thinking is to take your stand as if you knew you would win.–Anonymous

The wondrous voice, the voice of the one who attends to the cries of the world, the noble voice, the voice of the rising tide surpassing all the sounds of the world: let  our minds be attuned to that voice. – Thich Nhat Hahn translating sutra [scripture] of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

It goes one at a time.
It starts when you care to act.
It starts when you do it again
after they say no.
It starts when you say we
and know who you mean;
and each day you mean
one more.

–Marge Piercy from “The Low Road”

The rise of the modern large corporation and the concomitant rise of the professional manager demand a conceptual framework in which these phenomena can be accommodated to moral thought. – John B. Mathews Jr.

Morality has become pragmatic. – Hazel Henderson

Opening

Go around the room with thoughts since the last session.

Leader: The purpose of this session is to learn ways to relate to companies and influence them toward more responsible behavior. It is not an assumption of this session that corporations will go away, rather that corporations are composed of human beings, and can be changed.

Introduction to Shareholder Advocacy

Pass out/put on screens Resource 2.2, “Shareholder Activism”. Use method conducive to maximum accessibility to all participants: read the piece around the circle (or read alone). Here whole group discussion should be short. In intergenerational settings, assign each pair one strategy to read and discuss, and then return to the whole group to report. There are 8 strategies, and 4 success stories which can be used; if the group is larger than 12 pairs, used groups of 3. (Note: the author, Co-op America Quarterly, has changed its name to Green America and its magazine is now web-based.)

OPTION

PowerPoint Presentation” Shareholder Advocacy”[Resource 2.3]

Resolutions to Corporate Annual Meetings

Role Play

Ask for a volunteer (or identify the person you have already asked – if the minister is present ask them first). Physically move people and furniture to set the stage for an annual meeting, with the Board of Directors in a long line up front, and a microphone station halfway through the room for the speaker) to demonstrate what it is like to participate in an annual meeting.  Leader: This is the statement from UU minister Rev. Rhett Baird at a WalMart annual meeting.  He has been asked to represent CalPers, a retirement pension fund worth over 213.5 billion dollars.  Ministers have experience in public speaking; and if there is anything UUs do well, it is our command of Robert’s Rules of Order in service to the democratic process.

Read – dramatically – Resource 2.4 “UU Minister Speaks at Annual Meeting” or Resource 2.5 “A Case Study”.

Leader: Faith-based groups were represented at that meeting speaking as the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, ICCR. The UUA has worked with the ICCR to co-sponsor resolutions for decades; recent attention –particularly the work of our Treasurer Tim Brennen — to the matter has prompted the UUA to file its own resolutions. Here are companies and issues we worked with last year.

Dialogue

Pass out/put on screen UUA 2010 Shareholder Advocacy Initiatives [Resource 2.6].

Leader: In the beginning, about 30 years ago, we were thrilled to have resolutions that got 2 or 3% of the vote. Now we are seeing 30 and 40 even 50% of votes. And the most exciting development is that just this last year, there were twice the number of conversations than there were resolutions brought to annual meetings.  What this means is that we, or ICCR, or CalPers or any shareholder can contact the company and develop relationships, in order to discuss our concerns.  For example, Tim spoke with upper management of Legg Mason and negotiated an agreement with them to publish a report of their environmental impact each year.

This has been a long time coming: at first, shareholders were sent to the public relations department.  But the combined pressure of annual meeting resolutions, scrutiny from the media, protesters and employees own concerns has made the difference.  McDonalds has recyclable containers and nutritional analysis charts and recently adopted a GLBT non discrimination policy (which is why some very conservative religious groups have decided to boycott McDonalds).

ESG Examples of Shareholder Advocacy

Matrix work

Pass out/put on newsprint the Values-Based Financial Practices Matrix [Resource 2.7].

Leader: we are going to fill out the shareholder activism line, using examples of environment, social or governance concerns from this group. What can a person or congregation do? Let’s put as many approaches as we can,  keeping in mind our UUA Principles and Purposes as we do so. What do you think companies are sensitive to? Brainstorm.

Leader: [if not already noted] Let me add in the greatest vulnerability a corporation can have.  It’s called the business case.  A company will change its behavior if it’s financial bottom line is affected.  How do problems in these areas impact the financial bottom line?

Brainstorm according to these categories:

Environment (EPA fines, depleting the resource on which their profit depends…)

Social (class action suits, reputation, government fines…)

Governance (reputational, Board malfeasance…)

Leader: The corporate business case was instrumental in the end of apartheid.  Let’s read the story of a an employee of Consolidated Goldgields Michel Young who was able to convince his CEO of the corporate stake in a new South Africa.

Pass out and read around the room/read aloud to group Resource 2.8 Consolidated Goldfields.

Leader: But you need not join with a group to have an impact as a shareholder. Any person group or congregation owning stock has the authority and responsibility to express their values to the companies they own.

Break

Proxy Voting

Pass out/put on screen Resource 2.9 Proxy Ballot. Read the parts together.

Leader: A survey of a of 2010 bunch of proxy ballots that landed in one UU’s mailbox, for example, found recommendations that they vote AGAINST the following resolutions:

  1. Gender identity non-discrimination policy
  2. Shareholder right to call a special meeting
  3. Policy to separating the roles of Chairman and Chief Executive officer
  4. A policy that stockholders have the opportunity at each annual meeting to vote on an advisory resolution proposed by management to approve certain compensation of our executives.
  5. Elimination of compensation over $500,000 per year
  6. A report on increasing inherent security of chemical facilities

By law, if you do not vote your proxy, the recommendation of management will be counted as your vote. Discuss.

UU History

Pass out/put on screen Resource 2.10, the 1968 Register Leader’s “UU World” report on implementing the 6th General Assembly resolution on values-based finances. Identify the three approaches to values-based finances, and the attitudes toward them. Discuss as whole group or in small groups or pairs.

Ethical Inquiry

Leader: Would you invest in a company for the express purpose of shareholder advocacy?  Would you be willing to speak personally with corporate officers about their companies’ practices in ways which would keep the dialogue going?  How?  At what point do you give up on the relationship and get rid of your stock or boycott the product? Discuss in pairs.

Return to whole group and discuss: Why is there not a UU on every board of every multinational corporation?

Explorations

Go to live web and look up:

1. ICCR.org (Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility) [Web Explorations 6]

Closing

Go around with questions, What was powerful for you? What do you want to know more about?

Read or sing Hymn #34 “Though I May Speak with Bravest Fire” from Singing the Living Tradition.

Extinguish Chalice

Session 3

May 5, 2010

Values-Based Financial Practices for UUs

Session 3: Choices in Purchasing and Investing

Objectives

Develop supportive atmosphere in which to address complexities of choices and

become familiar with two aspects of the financial practice of choice:

purchasing and investing

Goal

Identify personal or congregational choices in purchasing or investing.

Opening

Chalice lighting

Responsive Reading #563 Singing the Living Tradition [Resource 3.1]

A person will worship something –have no doubt about that.

We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts

– but it will out.

That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts

will determine our lives, and character.

Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship,

for what we are worshiping we are becoming.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Go around: Reflections from last session.

Introduction to Choices in Purchasing and Investing

Reflection

Leader: take a moment in silence to remember your last purchase.  Are there ways that this decision reflect your personal history?  Share in dyads or small groups.

Leader : The purpose of this session is to consider the interconnectedness of every action we take, without becoming overwhelmed! The theologian Paul Tillich spoke of “spending and being spent” and suggested that if we want to know where our faith resides, we take a look at our checkbook or our calendar as reflections of where our hearts are. Some call this subject a matter of putting your money where your heart is.

Recalling that “choice” comes from the Greek haresis, heresy, this session asks us to consider the heresies we practice when we base our choices on our values, standing on the side of love. Here we remember that one of the things love teaches us is that no one, no thing, no company, no movement, is perfect.  But love also tells us that there is always hope, and we can never give up. As we each do what we can do, we participate the building the world we dream of.

We will look at purchases in the first half, and investments in the second half of our time.

Purchases

Leader: Here are at least three approaches to thinking about ethical consumption: buy green, buy local, fair trade.

List on posterboard, and brainstorm examples or other categories.

Leader: There are many economies at work in any economic structure. There is the black market, doing business in illegalities. Beyond that, some $40 trillion is thought to remain unmeasured in global estimates of GDP, gross domestic product. These are economies of health and well being that are not measured. Some call it the social economy, or the love economy, or the economics of caring. Some estimates range as high as 50% in calculating how much of the world’s economy is provided by transactions without money.  These are the economies that “produce” children, healthy families, safe neighborhoods, care for the elderly, democracies, civil rights, social justice and environmental movements.

Brainstorm examples of non monetary transactions, with discussion interspersed. Include:volunteering (in the U.S. 77 million strong as baby boomers retire); household work (mostly women worldwide); childcare; elder care; time banks; local exchange trading systems (LETS), family and friend barters.

Leader: Economic futurist Hazel Henderson says,

The total production of societies looks like [a] three-layer cake with icing – broader and deeper than the economists’ monetary pie.  The icing on the cake is the private sector, with entrepreneurs creating new  businesses and market-based companies and industries.  The icing rests on the layer of the tax-supported public sector: roads, schools, sewer-systems, infrastructure networks from air-traffic controllers, and our military and government agencies that monitor our food supply, water, and air quality.  These top layers of our productive “cake” are conducted in money [and measured as] GDP…[1]

Henderson thinks the next layer down is the non monetary economy and the bottom foundational layer is the environment. This is making me hungry. It’s time for a break and a snack. Here’s some diversity in economy: local exchange trades, or LETS.

Pass out/put on screen Resource 3.2 Local Currencies.

Leader: Let’s end this half of the session with the words of Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor: “It is worth remembering that our daily lives constantly reenact in ritual form the values of the market.”[2]

Break.

Introduction to Investment Choices

Leader: At first, investment selection was based on negative criteria: what we don’t want.  Then it progressed to include positive criteria: what do we want to encourage.  The Japanese rating system uses organic symbols: a full flowering plant for a company wholly engaged in ESG best practices  — but an underground seed for the most egregiously behaving companies —  an expression of faith in the potential for ethical maturation in any sector, by any company. Remember that we will not find perfection, but we will find flashes of light. Let me read to you a few examples. I wonder which of these you would consider investing in or purchasing from.

  • [A cola company] agreed to invest $60 million to build the world’s largest plastic bottle recycling plant in South Carolina.  It also committed to recycle or reuse 100% of PET plastic used by the company’s beverages in U.S. sales.
  • …two oil companies in the United States agreed to report their responses to climate change.
  • …a fast food chain has decided to produce a report on its social and environmental performance.
  • [A big box company] has agreed to publish its first sustainability report.
  • …a Canadian oil company has divested its business that supplied oil to the Sudanese government…
  • …a maker of health care products agreed to stop using polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which releases carcinogens when it is burned
  • [A food consortium] began to sell Fair Trade Certified coffee after an intensive dialogue with socially responsible investors…
  • [a clothing company] released its first social Responsibility Report after two years of dialogue…the first clothing retailer to publicaly rate the way  its contractors treat their workers, [setting] new standards of transparency for the industry.[3]

Role Play in fishbowl

Talk to your investment professional and ask for your issue to be reflected in your investments.  Investment professional, be as unknowing or discouraging as you can.

Ethical dilemmas.

Small Groups (assign notetaker)

1. Your company (you own stock or purchase from it) has been improving its safe working conditions after many years of court battles and government fines. Now it is a not only putting resources into safety, but producing in a yearly disclosure report with self-assessments and goals.   However, it pays it’s employees the bare minimum and bases it’s labor force on below fulltime employment in order to avoid benefits.

2. Your company has excellent governance practices (low CEO pay ratio, diversity on Board), excellent labor relations, and it is in the extractive industry (mining, oil).

3. Your company has a goal of 0 carbon footprint by 2015; it has entered into agreements with the government of a host country to remove the indigenous peoples from areas the company needs.

Explorations

Send people off in groups around laptops with live web access, or write these addresses on posterboard.

A. How can we know, when there is so much research needed to discern corporate behaviors?

a. Know What You Own:  http://www.calvert.com/kwyo.html  [Web exploration 7]

b. Go to these socially responsible mutual fund company websites and examine their criteria for choosing investments: Ariel [Web Exploration 8]; Domini [9]; Calvert [10]; Pax World [11]; Trillium [12].

  1. B. Who researches the researchers?  An international set of standards have been developed in unbelievable detail using United Nations criteria called the Global Reporting Initiative. globalreporting.org [Web explorations 13].

  1. C. ESG issues
  2. SEC Turnaround Sparks Sudden Look at Climate Disclosure

Federal regulators are preparing to launch “a very serious look” at requiring corporations to assess and reveal the effects of climate change on their financial health, according to a commissioner on the Securities and Exchange Commission. NY Times July 13, 2009 SEC – http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2009/07/13/13climatewire-sec-turnaround-sparks-sudden-look-at-climate-65102.html [Web exploration 14].

Closing

Homework: Look in the media for reports of local initiatives which create or discourage flourishing good health in your local community.

Sing or read Hymn #34: “Though I May Speak with Bravest Fire” Singing the Living Tradition

Extinguish the Chalice


[1] Henderson, Hazel. Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Co, 2006), 53.

[2] Paul Rasor, “Materialism, Violence and Culture: The Context of Our Faith.”  Talk given at Pendle Hill, Oct. 1, 2001.

[3] Landier, Augustin,and Nair,Vinay. Investing for Change (Oxford University Press, 2009), 51-2.

Session 4

May 5, 2010

UU Values-Based Financial Practices

Session 4:  Community Investing

Objectives

Develop an increased understanding of the learning community

and of community investing.

Goal

Learn about examples of microloans and community investment vehicles.

Opening

Light the chalice, while several people read Resource 4.1

Suppose… [people were] systematically educated to believe that the important thing is not to get themselves personally “right” in relation to the antecedent author and guarantor of … values but to form their judgments and carry on their activity on the basis of public, objective and shared consequences. — John Dewey

Debt, n. an ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave driver.—Ambrose Bierce

Credit has done a thousand times more to enrich mankind than all the gold mines in the world.  It has exalted labor, stimulated manufacture, and pushed commerce over every sea. –Daniel Webster

No social system in any country will bring us happiness, health, and prosperity unless it is inspired by something greater than materialism.—Clement R. Attlee

Leader: This session is about community finance.  We begin with the microfinance movement, which is best known as beginning with Mohammad Yunus, who returned to his native Bangledesh after received his economics doctorate in the U.S. The drought of 1974 had left people around the University of Chittigong where he worked impoverished, and many in debt to rates so high they could never repay – literally slaves to debt for the rest of their lives.  A gregarious personality, Yunus went about meeting people and inquiring about their lives. He found  42 households in crippling debt. When he added it up, the total of those households’ debt was $27.  He lent out the $27 and was surprised to find himself paid back in full.

Yunus began Grameen, or Bank of the Villages, as a way to utilize social capital – the energy and creativity of the poorest of the poor.  “I thought about what traditional banks do and I did the opposite” he told a UU minister colleague. “While banks lent to those with money or property for collateral, I only lent to those who had none.”

The microloan concept has spread the world around.  Let’s look at a CBS video on the topic.

View

CBS “A Little Microlending goes a Long Way” video [Web exploration 5] at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/04/15/eveningnews/main4948684.shtml

Discuss.

Leader: One of our churches, All Souls UU in Tulsa Oklahoma has it’s own microloan program, which has created banks all over the world.  Let’s read Rev. Brent Smith’s account of how it started.

Read aloud/pass out/put on screen Resource 4.2. Discuss.

Ethical Inquiry

Leader: The ability to imagine creatively into others’ experiences widens our hearts and our minds.  I have asked some people to listen with the ears of those not physically present, but with us in spirit.  After our discussion, we will hear from them, as we all process the discussion.

During break, hand out slips assigning identities to 10% of the group: perspectives not in the room (Ojibaway military serviceperson with PTSD, African American financial professional newly unemployed in financial crisis, white unemployed mother of 3 from generational poverty, Asian immigrant storeowner, Latina real estate agent, the planet earth, a 7 year old, and so on). These people are not to reveal their identities until the end.

Write on newsprint or put up on screen resource 4.3. Discuss.

After 15 minutes of discussion, ask the “invisible participants” to share how the discussion sounded from their identity.

Leader: We can no longer live as if in isolation, and the voices of the world are with us wherever we go.  It is our religious imagination which enables us to feel the presence of all life in our midst.

Explorations

On paper

Resource 4.4 “Dreams from His Mother.” Barak Obama’s mother Ann Dunham Soetoro was part of the beginning of the microloan movement.

On the web:

Send people off to investigate on the web, or give them these addresses:

  • Kiva.org – individuals can make very small loans worldwide  [Web Exploration 15]
  • CalvertFoundation.org (Databases, videos, news, due-diligence, print-tool of profiles, social return calculator, Calvert Community Investments) [Web Exploration 16]
  • CommunityInvest.org (Brochures and listings of options, trends reports, etc. from the Social Investment Forum, C.I./SRI Trends Report) [Web Exploration 17]

Community Development Associations/Industry

Closing

Leader:  Please pull out your Matrix, or take a look at the newsprint, as we fill out this last column, community finances.

Conclusion of the Course

We will not be having another session, usually a “next steps” sort of thing because that is up to you, in your local congregation or area.  Instead, we will think together about what was powerful in this session and in this course; also any suggestions for changes are welcome.

Please fill out the Post Course Evaluation [Resource 4.4].

Extinguish the Chalice with Reading.

Session 5

May 5, 2010

A fifth session is at the behest of the group or congregation, organized for next steps.

Resource 1.1

Pre Course Questionnaire

  1. What is a value-based financial practice?
  1. What are some ways of practicing value-based finances?
  1. What ethical dilemmas do they present?
  1. What do I hope to learn in this course?
  1. Please describe your experience in fiduciary practices (i.e. are you a professional, do you handle the family finances, hate to balance the checkbook, etc.)
  1. Other comments

I know about:

Shareholder Activism……………………1 (not at all)  2  3  4  5 (a lot)

Community Investment…………………1  2  3  4  5

Choices in Purchasing & Investing…1  2  3  4  5

UU Values…………………………………..1  2  3  4  5

Ethical dilemmas………………………….1  2  3  4  5

What I would like this evening/course to be:

What I would not like this evening/course to be:

Resource 1.2

Chalice Lighting Readings

We only think when we are confronted with a problem.

John Dewey

“This is the sum of Dharma [duty]: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” Mahabharata, 5:1517 (800 BCE – 400 CE)

That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.   Hillel (50 BCE – 10 CE)

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – Jesus (ca.1BCE – 33CE)

None of you truly believe until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself. – Muhammad (571-632 CE) Hadith (commentary)

K’ung Fu-tzu’s student asked: “Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?”
The Master replied: “How about ‘shu’ [reciprocity]: never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?”– Confucius (ca. 551-479 BCE) Analects XV.24, tr. David Hinton

Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of they people, but thou shal love thy neighbor as thyself.  – Moses reports the words of YHWH (ca 1525-1400 BCE) Leviticus 19:18

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.” –Oscar Wilde

“The golden rule is a good standard which is further improved by doing unto others, wherever reasonable, as they want to be done by.” Ethicist Karl Popper


Resource 1.3

Personal Reflection

How did I learn about the existence of money? Was it OK to talk about?

How did my family feel about our economic circumstances when I was a child?

Remember a time when something was purchased, and the situation surrounding it.

Who handled the money in my childhood family?

How did I learn to handle money? How am I doing now?

How have my economic circumstances changed, or not, through my life?

Currently, what economic circumstances are my friends in? My family of origin?

(Adapted from a day-long workshop developed by the Rev. Dr. Marni Harmony)


Resource 1.4


Resource 1.5

Resource 1.6

Value s- Based Financial Practices

Matrix

Practice Shareholder

Activism

Choices in Purchasing

And Investing

Community Finances
ESG
Environmental
Social
Governance


Resource 1.7

Now What?  What Next?

Rev. Jim Sherblom

October 12, 2008

“If I were a rich man, yah dah yah dah yah dah, all day long I’d yah dah yah dah, if I were a wealthy man!”  Topal sings this in Fiddler on the Roof and I suspect many of us still fantasize that a certain level of wealth will free us from all financial concerns.  It is a poor person’s fantasy, it is not true, has never been true, freedom from financial concerns comes from centering our life around something more important than our financial wellbeing.  When all around us there is chaos, anxiety, despair even, it can be nearly impossible to center our lives on nonmaterial things.  We are in a time of financial chaos, may lose everything, or not, this may be grossly unfair, or beginning to tilt towards justice, but what is important as we make our way through this turmoil, is for each to always remember we are more than merely our individual financial wellbeing.  So we face the future with hope.

American capitalism, and the USA itself, in September 2008 entered into a new phase of existence, that will in many ways be different from what we know and assume to be ordinary.  It helps perhaps to recognize that this is at least the 7th major transformation of American capitalism in this congregation’s short 300 year history.  The initial English settlers that formed this congregation lived a rural farming existence subsisting at about half the economic standard of living of the rest of the world in their time.  They were the 17th Century’s low cost labor and emerging market economy.  However, thanks to immigration and industriousness, within a hundred years the population increased ten fold, and our gross domestic product (GDP) grew almost 24 fold, such that by 1820 the average American enjoyed twice the economic standard of living of the average person living elsewhere in the world.  This was an extraordinary occurrence, seldom seen in the history of the earth, and yet over the next 100 years Americans got so used to the idea that we should always be richer than the rest of the world, that it seems to many our manifest destiny.  Yet there have always been those in this congregation who worried that America’s overly focused pursuit of economic wellbeing largely ignores other aspects of our being, to our detriment as beings.

America survived its first great debt crisis in 1789, shortly after gaining its freedom from England, which was accompanied by run away inflation, falling currency values, and broadly threatened massive defaults by banks, commercial concerns, and the individual state governments.  Alexander Hamilton, the recently appointed Treasury Secretary, the Hank Paulsen of his day, with George Washington’s approval went to Wall Street and  arranged a massive federal debt program to absorb and gradually retire all of the toxic state and commercial debts that were clogging the new nation’s credit system.  This federal debt consolidation was opposed by Thomas Jefferson, and many others, as a massive usurpation of state rights by the new national government, but it cleared the way for an era of unprecedented prosperity over the following decades.

Within two generations, America’s dramatic push west from the Alleghenies created a land rush, largely funded by low interest mortgages on newly acquired properties, which were so inflationary if by the 1830’s you were not a land speculator, you likely saw the value of your other assets decline to a level that would not even ensure subsistence.  It seemed everyone in America now invested in real estate, and East Coast moneyed interests, especially those connected with the government or the Bank of the US (that century’s equivalent of the Federal Reserve Bank) made the biggest profits .  Real estate appreciation became what everyone counted upon for wealth creation and for funding their retirement in their old age.  In a populist uprising Andrew Jackson was elected President of the USA in 1829, and in the final weeks of his second term he killed the Bank of the USA, creating a massive credit crunch in 1837 just as he ended his second term.  The crash of 1837, with falling real estate values and inability for many to pay their mortgages was one of the greatest credit crises in American history.  I have studied that particular financial crisis in some depth because its impact on Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Theodore Parker, and Frederic Henry Hedge was extraordinary, striking as it did when they were in their 20’s, just starting out their careers, and its impact on their way of being in the world would color their entire lives.  I would argue it helped turn them away from seeking financial success and led to the rise of Transcendentalism as a response to this economic catastrophe.  Today, America is the better for it.

The industrial revolution came early to America transforming the American economy following our Civil War.  Then a 15 year railroad building boom led to America’s first stock market bubble, and in 1873 caused a stock market induced depression.  By 1913 the American population had grown another 10 fold, and the American economy had grown another 40 fold.  The average American now enjoyed 3.5 times the annual income of the average person living in the world, but with the rise of modern corporations and the concentration of wealth in a few hands, a large part of that financial wellbeing was for the first time exclusively enjoyed by the top 5% of America’s wealthiest.  By the beginning of the 20th Century, many Unitarians and Universalists were protesting the inequities of these skewed financial rewards, and particularly were focusing upon the horrible conditions of those living at the bottom of the industrial pyramid, while helping to lead labor and reform movements to bring fairer working conditions for new immigrants and the working poor.  Progressives raised the challenge of how to curb corporate abuses, and provide for a living wage for all workers, without destroying the incredible engine of economic growth that industrialization represented for America.  These personal and small scale efforts were largely dwarfed by the scope of the Great Depression in 1929, a financial crisis caused by over reliance upon financial leverage to magnify one’s financial stock market returns.  These private efforts were replaced by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, which brought the federal government into the financial and employment markets to ensure their fair and free functioning.  Most of our financial regulatory bodies (SEC, FDIC, FASB), much legislation and corporate practices date from this period of nationalizing community standards of risk taking and rewards to those allowed access to our national credit system.  It works.

America’s dominance of world economic wellbeing peaked in the 1950’s, largely due to the devastating effect of the two world wars on European, Chinese and Japanese economies, but began its relative decline through the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Then the technology boom followed by the dotcom bubble lifted the American financial advantage to its highest point in history, with 4.6 times the world average income in 2001, before the events following September 11, 2001 led us into a new decline.  In fact the Federal Reserves policy of keeping credit artificially cheap for the last seven years, and using continued consumer consumption well beyond our means to power the expansion of our economy, allowed America to postpone its recognition that its world financial dominance was coming to an end, and it also created the current real estate bubble, financed by complicated credit derivatives, which ensured that the financial crisis when it finally came would be among the largest in our country’s long history of financial crises.  That is what we experience now, a financial reckoning which came upon us quickly, that harms innocents and culprits alike as we see a decline in real estate values, toxic mortgages and financial derivatives backed by such loans, a massive credit crunch, substantial reductions in the use of financial leverage, and a fitting ending to what much of the world views as America’s love affair with an amoral individualistic, deregulated, and unconstrained capitalism.

Resource 1.8

Four Paths to Socially Responsible Investing

FOUR PATHS TO SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE INVESTING

Socially responsible investing makes the radical assumption that we are responsible for the quality of life through our financial practices.  Our purchases and our investments have meaning.  The meaning we make through our economic lives can be a powerful force for good in the world. That good comes from the willingness to assume responsibility for the companies from whom we buy and in whom we invest.

The practice of socially responsible investing began in the late 18th century, when religious investors decided that they would refuse to invest incorporations engaged in alcohol, gambling, and tobacco. In 1966 the UUA and others joined together as shareholders in Eastman Kodak to convince the board of directors they had aa responsibility to provide African American residents of Rochester, NY with a proportionate share of jobs. By 1970 the UUA set aside 5% of its endowment to be invested in “enterprises which made a high social contribution.”  An interfaith investment boycott of firms doing business in South Africa was joined in 1980 by the first of a new wave of financial groups – socially responsible investment funds.

These four aspects, shareholder activism, community investing, and both positive and avoidance screening comprise four paths to socially responsible investing. Currently, thousands of funds, schools and religious organizations use these economic strategies to create social change.  The goal of both financial and social (also called ethical, or value-added return on investment is called  “the double bottom line.”

Avoidance Screening

Avoidance screen is an investment policy whereby an organization or individual avoids investing in a particular company because of objections to the company’s behavior or activities. Dumping toxic waste, mistreating employees, oppressing indigenous peoples, creating unsafe products could all cause a company to be screened out of a socially responsible portfolio.

How do we know these things? An essential aspect of the SRI industry is research and evaluation of corporations according to various criteria of concern. A bi-product of the screening process is that corporations are now expected to disclose information about their employment, environmental, health and safety labor relaions and other practices along with disclosures of their financial status.  Disclosure laws are currently under attack in the context of homeland security.

Affirmative Screening

Screening companies for inclusion in a socially responsible portfolio involves seeking out investments that support our values and principles.  At its best, affirmative screening leads us to invest only in firms whose business practices and activities support and promote issues we feel benefit humanity and the environment.  Examples might include: those involved in recycling, pollution control and clean up; those that manufacture goods from recycled materials; those that treat their employees well and support diversity at all levels; and those that interact in a positive way with their local communities.

Community Investing

Through community investing, congregations and individuals can support initiatives such as affordable housing,environmental projects, small business lending ( particularly to women and people of color), neighborhood development projects in both urban and rural areas, and micro-enterprise development throughout the world. Through such initiatives, community financial institutions channel money to people and enterprises that would not qualify for loans from more mainstream sources.

We can invest in companies that have a good track record of community investing.  In addition, there are community development financial institutions (CDFIs) in virtually every state in the nation.  These institutions focus solely on community development; some CD banks even have checking, savings and money market accounts.

Shareholder Activism

Anyone who holds a certain minimum number of shares in a publicly held corporation can file a resolution to be voted on at the corporation’s annual meeting.  Doing so is an educational device to alert other shareholders to social injustices or behaviors that the firm may be engaged in, and it places pressure on the corporation’s officers to change its destructive policies and practices.  The UUA is a member of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, which coordinates interfaith shareholder actions.

Purchasing is of course the simplest way to act in a socially responsible manner.  Paying attention to what you buy and from whom is an everyday way to live your values.

Investment portfolios can be crafted with socially responsible criteria.  Congregations and endowment funds often wonder if socially responsible investing will effect their overall financial return.  Over the last 20 years, much to everyone’s surprise, and adjusted for asset classes, risk and deversification, socially responsible investments generally provide financial returns at least as high as funds invest without regard to SRI.  In fact, over the longer term, investing in responsible companies seems to yield a somewhat higher return than investing in comparable companies which do not act as responsibly to their various stakeholders.

There has come into existence a new and exciting field: that of research into corporate practices – often quite hair-raising —  and the complicated art of decision-making regarding screening and passing or failing the differing screens as well as inclusion in socially responsible portfolios. There are socially responsible mutual funds that provide balanced, diversified portfolios of socially responsible investments for most asset classes, which often give superior returns, but you can begin with your existing fund manager as well, in order to encourage the spread of this important tool for social change.

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