In the current edition of Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal, David Reiling has a piece on “socially responsible investing” that hits the nail on the head when it comes to how each of us is called to social responsibility in our lives.
Reiling talks of The Vice Fund, a $46 million investment fund that, he says, is for those who “believe in making money at all costs” by investing in industries such as alcohol, tobacco, gambling and weapons.
The pragmatism of the Vice Fund contrasts sharply with the values of Socially Responsible Finance. "There's a big difference between irresponsible living and irresponsible investing," Vice Fund portfolio manager Charles Norton told The Wall Street Journal. "Being socially responsible in life is a good thing, but it shouldn't interfere with making a good investment."
Well actually, yes, it should; why would you divorce your moral life from your financial life? Foundation boards know their fiduciary responsibility isn't limited to maximizing rates of return, but includes balancing that return with investments that complement their mission. A company with a high rate of return that pollutes our groundwater would not be a good investment because the return doesn't justify violating the clean water.
Now, I don’t know what issues are important to Reiling himself, although he says “I don't care to invest in tobacco, but I'm neutral about alcohol; I hunt pheasant, so I'm not anti-gun; and to me, gambling is just entertainment, although I recognize for others, it's an addiction. “ But he understands something that is often all-too-lost amidst the materialism of Corporate America:
Ultimately, investors must decide what kind of a world they want their children to inherit. Perhaps one of the greatest legacies we can leave our sons and daughters is the idea that the value of a dollar can be measured in ways that extend beyond numbers on a balance sheet, so that our children learn to invest with their conscience as well as with their wallets.
Reiling identifies the situation in a way that few do, or care to: your moral life should be the guiding spirit in every part of your life. He’s not talking about the government legislating morality, but something that for many is far more frightening: letting your conscience be your guide.
I often rag on those, from politicians to entertainment figures to corporate executives, who somehow think their personal and professional lives are two separate entities. In fact, as Christ tells us, a house divided against itself cannot stand. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) As St. Josemaria Escriva once wrote, “One is worth what one’s heart is worth.”
For too many in society today, their treasures indeed tell us much about their hearts, and their values. Why indeed should you divorce your moral life from your financial life, or any other aspect of your life for that matter? Kudos to Reiling for stating it so plainly.