The Courage To Stop Investing in Bombs
Note: In honor of Social Venture Network’s 25-year anniversary, the network is inducting 25 of its most innovative and influential leaders into its hall of fame Nov. 13 at Gotham Hall in New York City. To recognize these sustainable business pioneers, SVN’s news program, ‘Sustainable Solutions,’ is interviewing the hall-of-famers to celebrate their accomplishments and learn what more needs to be done. Read the whole series here.
In the early 1980s, Amy Domini had an “ah-ha” moment that would lead her to play a formidable role in building the field of socially responsible investing.
At the time, the young financial adviser was recommending one of her clients to invest in a certain company. To her surprise, the client responded with indignation that the company made bombs.
Domini had never experienced such a response, and the interaction made her question her own moral standards.
“I thought, ‘Wow, I don’t like wars, why am I talking about bomb companies,’” recalls Domini.
With her clients as inspiration, creating investment options that match people’s values would become Domini’s life’s work.
After searching for literature on social investing and coming up empty handed, she wrote Ethical Investing in 1984.
Shortly after the book was published, Domini became engaged in the debate over South Africa’s apartheid system, specifically about whether American companies with factories in South Africa should be operating in a country with disenfranchised citizens.
“That whole debate gave me a real passion that something was wrong and investors had a role to play to make that better,” she says.
The end of apartheid reinforced Domini’s views, as it was bold moves like 90 companies withdrawing from South Africa in 1984 and 1985, and Congress banning South African imports, that helped influence the historical moment.
Domini would continue to pioneer the role of ethical finance with her company Domini Social Investments. In 1990, she and several partners created the first alternative benchmark for the responsible investor, the Domini 400 Social Index, which is an index of 400 companies selected based on a wide range of social and environmental standards.
“That’s an index of our own that has shown over the 22 years that it’s been around that my kind of investing has come out ahead of Standard and Poor, and done it a lower risk,” says Domini.
Domini also uses shareholder advocacy to generate global social change. She’s helped band together major corporations like the Gap and Disney to expand their human dignity and fair workplace criteria. This saw Disney move from 4,000 vendors to 200.
Other efforts include the creation of the Investors Group on Climate Change, which has grown to 50 investors with more than $4 trillion in assets.
Domini has also written four more books on socially responsible investing.
For these accomplishments, Domini is being inducted into Social Venture Network’s (SVN) Hall of Fame as a Fearless Financier. The network is honoring its top 25 leaders as part of its 25-year anniversary.
Domini describes SVN as vital to her career development, putting her in touch with individuals and organizations that were raising issues ahead of their time. Many of these conversations informed her shareholder advocacy work.
“It’s really great to feel that SVN considers me a person that is like so many of their members, a canary in the coal mine on issues that the world hasn’t yet faced up to and needs to face up to,” she says.
Domini and 24 other Hall of Fame inductees will be recognized at SVN’s Hall of Fame celebration Nov. 13 in New York City.
This article written by AxiomNews.ca is part of a Social Venture Network series featuring its Hall of Fame honorees.