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Beyond Thoughts & Prayers: Use Your Investments to Make Change Thumbnail

Beyond Thoughts & Prayers: Use Your Investments to Make Change

People filled the streets across America on Saturday, March 24th for the March For Our Lives, which was both a heartful and strategic response to the shock, sadness, and anger that has persisted since the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida.  What a blessing that these emotions remain fresh –  the national conversation feels palpably different and more enduring than after any prior mass shooting.

What can we do to propel this forward?

How we vote

For starters let’s each call on our electeds to pass meaningful legislation, and encourage every eligible young person to register to vote.

While passing strong gun laws is critically important, even absent new legislation there is much that can be accomplished by changing the policies and practices of American corporations.  Here’s how…

How we buy

Consumer pressure has already forced a large and growing list of companies to quit co-branding and doing business with the NRA. You can join this tide and stop doing business with companies that maintain their NRA business ties.

How we invest

As an investor, there are additional ways to wield influence and make this country safer and less violent.

For decades shareholder proposals have been filed with a large number of companies — ranging from manufacturers and retailers that make or sell guns and accessories, to the banks that provide credit to manufacturers while facilitating the retail purchase of firearms. 

In fact, in 2013 Investor Voice filed, on behalf of Newground Social Investment, what may have been the first-ever “Sandy Hook Principles” shareholder proposal — it asked Amazon.com to institute sweeping constraints on the sale of gun-related accessories, which the company embraced the spirit of.

4 Ways Investors Can Flex Their Economic Muscle:

1. Check your Portfolio

Research your portfolio to see if you own stock in any gun manufacturer.

On-line tools are in development that will make researching guns in mutual funds easy to do; but in the meantime, ask your financial advisor, HR specialist, or 401(k) contact to do the research for you.

If you’re a Newground client (our sister investment company), rest assured that that you do not own gun manufacturers.  In fact, Newground and other socially aware impact investors have been divested from weapons manufacturers for years.

2. Talk to your Money Manager

Engage with your money manager.  If your portfolio includes gun makers, find out why.  Ask your financial advisor or mutual fund both to divest from gun makers and to endorse the “Sandy Hook Principles”.

If your money is in a company-controlled 401(k), band with other employees to encourage-pressure HR to make a change.  Be noisy and persistent — the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

3. Divest

If you manage your own investments, consider divesting of gun and accessory manufacturers.  Since these companies are generally quite small relative to the market or any broad index as a whole, there is limited financial risk to doing so.

4. Become an Active Shareholder

If you can’t divest, or want to keep a minimal holding (just $2,000 worth, held for a year) for the purpose of advocacy, then consider filing a “shareholder proposal” under rules set forth by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Shareholder proposals are printed in the company proxy for all the world to see, and thus are excellent tools for educating the public and opening the eyes of company management.  The outcomes can be transformative  – listen to one local NPR station’s feature story on the remarkable possibilities created by shareholder engagement.

Besides filing a proposal with gun manufacturers directly, you could also file with the banks and credit card companies that finance and facilitate the gun trade – an excellent idea amplified by Andrew Sorkin in a 2/19/18 New York Times article.

Shareholder advocacy of this sort is one of the services that Newground and Investor Voice offer.  You can learn more about the process and perhaps do it yourself, or reach out to discuss a possible engagement.

Because we live in a money culture, investors – in particular – have options, tools, and levers available to help them become more powerful and effective citizens.

Commit to using these tools, then join with like-minded others to learn, collaborate, and amplify your voice.

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Co-posted at Newground Social Investment