Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Avoiding Unethical Investments

There are several basic values that most people share:

* Avoid Causing Illness, Disease & Death
* Avoid Destroying or Damaging the Environment
* Avoid Treating Honest People with Disrespect

There are two simple steps that can help you avoid unethical investments based on the shared values above:

1. When judging a company/organization, focus primarily on its products and/or services. For example, no one would "ethically" invest in a cocaine cartel even if the leaders gave money to the poor & sick and had won "community service" awards for those donations. Investments in tobacco companies or Monsanto are similarly unethical because many of the products they sell cause illness, disease, and death throughout the world.

Any company or organization can take a small percentage of their profits and give it to worthy causes. Most companies can manage to win an award or two from some organization. These things are important, but they pale in comparison to the effects that the products/services have on the thousands or millions of customers. Some companies do beneficial things with their profits. But if they make these profits by selling products which cause illness/disease, environmental damage, or other suffering, they are clearly unethical investments.
Here are some resources that can help you recognize companies/organizations to avoid:

* Multinational Monitor
* Mother Jones Magazine

2. When gathing information about investment opportunities, ask for written details as to where the money is going. This is a simple, but very important step. People who have money invested in mutual funds or retirement funds sometimes discover that their these funds have been invested in companies that cause widespread harm to people or to the environment.


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