A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast

Episode 17: It's All about Faith Based Investing.

June 24, 2021 Simon Doong and Lee Catoe Season 1 Episode 17
A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast
Episode 17: It's All about Faith Based Investing.
Show Notes Transcript

This week, we got a lot of questions about faith based investing! We invited our friends from the Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee to join us on the podcast!

Special Guests:
Kerri Allen
Chair of MRTI, and Representative of the Advisory Committee for Women's Concerns
 
Rob Fohr
Director of Faith-Based Investing and Corporate Engagement & Lead Staff Person for the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI)

Guest Questions:

  • Why does the PCUSA engage the companies in which it owns stock?
  • How does the way that PCUSA engages companies and communities reflect our Presbyterian values?
  • How does the PCUSA’s process/approach compare to other faith-based investors?
  • What are some of the common myths or misperceptions about MRTI, faith-based investing, and/or divestment? 


Resource Roundup:
Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI)
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
General Assembly Divestment/Proscription List*
Proxy Voting Recommendations*
*for the latest guidelines please check theMRTI website

Speaker 1:

Hello, and welcome to a matter of faith, a Frisbee podcast, the podcast, where we respond to your questions and comments on issues of faith, social justice, and church life. Don't be afraid to write in and ask your question because if it matters to you, it matters to us. And it just might be a matter of faith,

Speaker 2:

Whether it be faith in God, faith in others, or faith in yourself, we are brought to you by the Presbyterian peacemaking program and Unbound, the interactive journal on Christian social justice for the Presbyterian church USA. I am your host Lee Cato ,

Speaker 1:

And I'm your host Simon dune

Speaker 2:

Without further ado, let's dive into today's questions. So this week we had a lot of questions about faith-based investing shocker Renault . So we invited our friends from mission responsibility through investment committee to kind of talk about that for a little bit. And so Simon and I won't be answering questions this week, but catch us next week. And we hope you enjoy our conversation with MRTA .

Speaker 1:

So joining us today are two very special guests to talk about church and faith investments and money. So today we have Rob for the director of faith based investing and corporate engagement, and he's also the lead staff person for the committee on mission responsibility through investment, also known as M RTI for the PCUSA. And we have Carrie Allen, the chair of the committee on mission responsibility through investment. And she is also the representative for the advocacy committee for women's concerns , uh , to M RTI. And we're really, really grateful to have them with us today. So Robin, Carrie , thanks for being with us. Thanks for having us.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Welcome. Uh , Robin Carrie , it's great for y'all to be here and for us to learn a little bit about what M R T I is. And so we will start us off with a question. Why does the PCUSA engage the companies in which it owns stock?

Speaker 3:

That's a great question. Thanks for asking that question. You know, I think this is a question that really takes us back to what do we believe as Presbyterians and as reformed Christians in particular, and, you know, reformed theology says that God is active in all spheres of life. And so then we are also called to be active. Our Presbyterian identity is distinctive in that we don't believe that we can separate ourselves from the world in the way that other traditions do. So we're part of the world we're part of God's world. And so then we to be responsive to that world by trying to bring about more justice in the world and bring God's reign closer to reality. And that's one of the aspects that's unique with, for us as Presbyterians and as reformed Christians. So that's really what the theological kind of rationale is for engaging companies and corporations. And I would just add one thing that we take our privilege and we try to assert that privilege for good. There are ways that we can't escape being the denomination that we are the assets that we hold the , um, privilege that we hold as Christians in this country. And so then the question becomes, what are you going to do with those things? And so this is really one of the important ways that we are able to utilize that privilege, to promote living in a more just world.

Speaker 4:

And I'll take that. Uh , it does, it does a great explanation of kind of the why that carried the why of why MTL , why engagement kind of the, how and the, what I mean. So the, the Presbyterian church or the Northern stream of the Presbyterian church in the early 1970s, 1971 to be precise when we're 50th 50th year of the original policies, social responsible investment policies being passed by the general assembly. And they really had this very revolutionary idea, simple idea, but revolutionary that are longterm invested capital held by our investigative agencies, which are our pension fund and our foundation that , that capital should do something. Additionally, in addition to just , uh , getting a adequate financial return. So we should actually be trying to advance some sort of , of mission goals through that invested capital. And again, that was the Presbyterian church and a few other of mainline Protestant denominations were the first investors in this space. And there's still some, some , uh, you know, some of the , that first generation that are, you know , in their , in their eighties now that are still around. And, you know, they , they will tell stories that like, you know , in the, in the biggest investment in the community, that they were literally the first people that ever talked to representatives from corporations about anything other than a financial return, you know , investors that talk that way. So , um, so the, like I said, their posts are , your church has been at this in , in , in , uh, since 1971. And then the Southern stream of the church adopted its first its first , uh, policies if five years later in 1976. So it's been, been a bit been awhile , but at this for awhile . And you know, it , it is again that the notion that the church investment is a , is an instrument of mission. So our , you know, the original goals, mission goals that the general assembly has to advance our , our values with, with public jury corporations were the pursuit peacemaking, the achievement of environmental responsibility, the achievement of economic and social justice, the achievement of racial justice and the advancement of the rights of women. And again, this is 1971 and, you know , for the Presbyterian church , uh , history buffs, that was, you know, not, not a coincidence that I came kind of on the heels of the confession of 67 , uh, 1967 or 67, as

Speaker 1:

We say, sometimes I really appreciate hearing, hearing all of that. Um, I didn't, I think a lot of people didn't are not really , uh, not, you know, well versed in the history of the PCUSA in terms of engagement, in terms of being involved in trying to do more like you were saying, Rob than just, just get a return. And that kind of makes me wonder how the way that the PCUSA engages companies and communities through M RTI reflects our Presbyterian values, because Carrie already talked a bit about the theological justification for , for why we do what we do. Um, but how has that reflected in the way that that MRC actually does its work both with communities and with companies?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, so, so with, with companies, you know, the , the kind of the, the, our, our process and , and a little bit, this goes to the , to the way the MRDI is , is , is , is structured. And it is, it brings together representatives from the , uh, from six different entities. So from the, we have two members from the boards of the board of pensions and the foundation proscenium foundation , uh, two members from the mission agency, brushing machine agency, and then a representative from , uh, that the , uh, advocacy committee on women's terms like Carrie , is that representative currently , uh, the racial equity advocacy committee and the advisory committee on, on , uh, on social witness policy, as well as three members that are, that are , um, elected directly by the assembly. And , and , and so it's really unique where it, where we bring together, you know, the representatives from the kind of the fiduciaries, which are, which are the board of pensions and foundation, and are in charge with , uh , making sure that, that , um, the churches , you know, church related investment is getting that return and is in the best interest of, is being managed to the best interest of the, of its members and stakeholders. Uh, but then there's this , this additional piece that, that, that we've got, which is advancing Presbyterian values and, and pressure and policy. So one of the things that we kind of say that we get to be MRC, I guess that gets to be , uh , the ambassadors of, of Presbyterian values to publicly traded corporations, which is a , um, it is a large mission field, a lot of opportunity there. Um, and it , you know, so we've got kind of this theological impetus for why we, why we're in those conversations, you know, based on the, on the goals, the original mission goals, which arguably we can still do all our work still really falls under those broad areas, but we also have to kind of do some translation work to companies. We can kind of say why we're there because of our theological impetus, but then we need to kind of talk to them as also an investor has to talk to them about, about, you know, unmanaged on an unmanaged risks that they may be facing , uh, that relates to kind of environmental, social and governance issues. But I, you know, I, I would say that a, a big part of what we do is, you know , in our policies have to do with recognizing the dignity of all stakeholders of everybody who , who, you know , kind of is impacted by the operations of a publicly traded corporation, which, you know, that is, you know, frontline community members, people that , that are , um, that are, that are in communities where these, these companies operate , uh , that is Presbyterians who maybe , you know , worked for that company, or may , uh , be congregations that is that that's for the representatives themselves. Many of them will tell us, Hey, I'm Presbyterian in dialogues . And that , and that gives us an opportunity to engage on that, you know, kind of away from the talking points that have been pre-approved by, by lawyers basically. And, and it gets , but , but anyway, I guess I would say that, you know, the real, the real uniqueness , I think is that our kind of our philosophy and the way we do it is designed to recognize the dignity of everyone.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, thanks, Rob. I think when it comes to our communities, one of the frameworks that I think is helpful for me to think about, I think most people know that we've been addressing a lot of climate change issues that, that has been our focus in recent years , um, because that's how the general assembly has directed us to focus. What's helpful for me is this framework that the environmental and climate change subcommittee chair, Reverend Dr. Gregory Simpson, the way that he frames our work as environmental justice and not just ego justice. And in that, there's a sense of understanding that harm to God's God's creation includes that harm both to the physical , um, earth creation, as well as human beings, that there are real, there are humans that are impacted as well, and that these things go together. And so we have, you know, just going back to, I'm just thinking back to those Genesis creation stories, how we really have a responsibility both to the earth and to humans. So from that environmental justice standpoint, our engagements with communities are to hear about how they're impacted by these things that are happening that then are that we are engaging companies on. So in recent years, as we are looking at climate change, really focusing on environmental racism and how the degragation of, of the earth has impacted disproportionately impacted communities of color black indigenous communities. Um, in particular, we have spent time in those communities, other communities, we spent time with those communities like in Southern Louisiana, as , um, we've seen the, the physical geography of the state of Louisiana shrinking and communities that are black and indigenous that losing their land , um, in this is shrinkage and understanding that people of color have the impact of environmental racism, both from those ecological impacts of climate , the ecological impacts of climate change, as well as other ways that, that these companies might be polluting. So in Detroit communities of Latin X and black people in particular where their refineries are making literally making people sick, literally killing people. And so what we do is we are in conversation with those communities and RTI has historically had conversations with communities that are impacted. I think there was a time where it ended up leaning towards more corporate engagement than community engagement. And as we've really faced this reckoning with addressing issues of racism, we've really tried to shift back to that. And, you know, a big part of that was being pushed by some of our advocates within the denomination around listen MRTA is not talking to frontline communities. That was a really , um, really important critique that we had to respond to because it was true critique. And that w you know, we did internally as , uh , as , as a committee, respond to that critique and then make more concerted efforts to now, but that's built into our structure and our process of our committee meetings, so that we spend that time in engaging with communities that are directly impacted by these companies where we, that we have investment. Another aspect of community engagement includes engaging with Presbyterian community, where we look at companies that we may find that we have to divest from. We engage with those Presbyterian communities, with those governing bodies, with those people that are employed by those companies that are Presbyterians, that extends an invitation to anyone in those communities that want to, that want to engage with us to, to tell us how their lives will be impacted potentially by divestment. So that's another aspect of that kind of community engagement. Um, it's probably important for me to also emphasize that in those, those engagements , um, the , the communities that are disproportionately impacted by environmental, like right now, environmental degregation and racism, their feedback is built into our metrics. So their feedback is actually built into our decision making process. And when we are looking at potentially divesting from companies, then our , our conversations with communities that might be impacted through jobs that is sort of like a distinctive process, because that is for us to really like, have a pastoral response to those communities, to understand, and to be sensitive to the pastoral needs of, of people when we're, when we're going to follow the metrics and the guidelines, and to keep , keep them informed about what's going on so that they know, so that there's no surprises there, there really are no surprises when we , um, with the way that we have structured our , uh , decision-making framework. Yeah.

Speaker 4:

So as Carrie all is very, very , uh, definitely brings up about our process and the rest of your process, which is, you know, we totally recognize at times it can, it can seem frustrating to some people , uh, but , uh, the, you know, the , the whole goal is to really bring all of our, of our decision-makers really , really on board. And really we have to kind of do this. We have to all be moving at the same direction for it to be really for any type of recommendation or anything that, that MRPI advances to the, to the general assembly. And, you know, a, what's got a lot of, you know, kind of press and attention lately is a potential divestment from, from oil and gas companies, which the general assembly in 2018, simply of those 223rd general assembly named nine companies that were , uh, that are , uh, amongst some of the , uh , the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the world. Um, and yeah, J nine is there become, and it's , it's kind of almost the GA 13, which is , you know , had in the general assembly last summer met, we would have added four different companies. And the reason those companies are there, the MRC and the PCUSA are part of, is a really large coalition, the largest ever assembled , um, institutional investors 575 is two institutional investors with over $54 trillion of assets under management. Basically it's a one-third of the, world's invested capital about coalesced around this idea, this initiative called the climate action 100 plus that's that's. Uh , the goal of that is to get the 161 largest emitters of greenhouse gases. They're so happy, publicly traded, and they've gotta be some of the largest, largest, largest emitters of greenhouse gases , uh , through shareholder engagement to try to get them to, to manage operations in , um, to be in compliance with the Paris Accords and specifically meeting the goal of the Paris Paris Accords goal of limiting average global warming to well below two degrees Celsius. So that is that , that, that is kind of the that's the strategy. And the tactic is we use a variety of interventions putting dialoguing with, with representatives of companies, investor letters, chilled proposals, in some cases of board challenges, board director challenges. If we think the, the boards are not adequately taking climate change seriously enough, and that's really starting to pick up, and that's a, five-year a five-year , uh , campaign or initiative. It started in 2018 and ends in 2023. So we're kind of right in the middle of it as we sit here in 2021. So that's kind of where we're , you know, we , we've always tried to align ourselves with , what's going to be the, you know , kind of the biggest give us the biggest return, the biggest, best use of our time, you know, and , and using this, you know , massive coalition of which we were one of the few faith-based leaders in the personal insurance is one of the few faith-based investment , uh , institutional investor leaders of this huge coalition of 575 institutional investors. So, you know, when we talked , so I'm talking about when MRC is gonna make a divestment recommendation to, to the general assembly, you know, we , we have to go through the seven step process, which I mentioned before the aid per the 84 policy, and really go through each one of those steps care . Carrie mentioned our guideline metrics framework, which was also , uh, was a , it was approved by the 223rd general assembly in 2018, which , uh, is , uh, has , um, criteria that that really is from, you know , a variety of sources, but it's from our gel existing general assembly policy. It's from , uh, the kind of the framework of our, this climate action 100 initiative, and then some other, you know , other relevant sources, but it essentially is shorthand trying to get, trying to show how companies are, or are not moving towards managerial operations towards Paris compliance. So , um, you know, once, once MRTS makes a recommendation for saying that based on our analysis and our engagement, we are showing that these companies are not adequately moving. So therefore we're going to recommend, recommend adding into our divestment lists , that recommendation then goes to the general assembly. And if the general assembly agrees with that says yes, and RTI, yeah , we agree with this. Then it comes back to M RTI and MRDI puts places, those companies on the next, the next year's divestment lists. And then that list goes to B goes to the boards of the investigation seas . So it's really this multi-step process, but ultimately the, the, the investment committees and the boards of the investigations is called the ultimate, you know , kind of , they make the ultimate decision about whether to accept that list in foreign part. Now they've always accepted it in full because every company has gone on there has gone through the MRC process based on GA policy. So that is something that, that MRC did advanced. We advanced three companies in 20, 20, 20, and not to speculate too much, but there's going to be at least that many, probably more in 20, 22, unless you're happy to be wrong about that, but I kind of think the way things are going, it doesn't look likely.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I mean, and if Rob was wrong about that, then that would be good news, because that would mean that would mean that these companies are moving in the right direction. And I think, you know, we kind of look, I think Presbyterian , uh , part of our Presbyterian identity is understanding the way that the holy spirit moves in these kinds of unique circumstances. Um, that's part of our like confessional identity. Like we have confessions that are speak to a particular moment in time. So when we think about this, like this theological and polity identity, and think about that in light of the , the, what NRTI has been addressing in recent years and climate change, there's a particular strategy that I think Rob alluded to that you want to have an impact, want to have this as a crisis. There is urgency in this, in these , this situation, there are going to be untold consequences of climate change. So there's a lot that we already know, and there's probably a lot that we don't know. So all of these are realities that are accepted widely accepted, accepted by MTI accepted by people that want to do categorical divestment. So with all of that in mind, one of the things that I think is embedded in the current process is what's going to have an actual impact. That's part of this idea of us partnering with that. We don't just do this work on our own, that we do this with other, with other faith-based investors and partners, so that we can have impact and see like a change, see a different trajectory, because that's going to be necessary. If we, if we say that if, if the, the assembly decided to do a categorical divestment, NRTI RTI would, you know, would not be engaging with those companies anymore. And we'd still have a responsibility as Christians to address climate change. It doesn't, it doesn't change the , um, the urgency or the situation . So we still have, you know, there's like the what's next, there's all kinds of other complicated factors in that, that particular scenario. But what I'm trying to underscore is that climate change doesn't go away nor does the responsibility that we have as Presbyterians to creation that doesn't go away if we divest.

Speaker 2:

So it's not a one and done deal, which, which I think often in this Presbyterian culture can be perpetuated that narrative, like divestment means, you know, it's kind of a one and done, and we may not get to, we can wash our hands of it and we're finished. So, but, but that does lead me into, and I'm glad y'all mentioned the frustrations that processes can have because of the urgency of climate change. Because like, I mean, we're feeling it right now. It's like a hundred degrees outside and it ain't supposed to be that way right now. And I do think there is an urgency that leads to the frustration that may also lead to a lot of misconceptions. A lot of myths, a lot of things that people may misunderstand about O M RTI, which at which happens with anything, you know, with, with a lot of things that , that, that take a very nuanced approach and a very intentional approach to things. And so I wonder not that we're like MythBusters or anything, but I do wonder if we can clear the air and maybe kind of bring to bring to the forefront, maybe some of these misconceptions that need to be cleared up, that we all have kind of maybe have heard in , in the Presbyterian culture, because those exist . And we don't want to kind of water that down. So I wonder about that as well.

Speaker 3:

The two things that I want to say one is that it's, there is frustration. There's also grief because when things don't go the way that you hope them to, then it becomes a loss. And so there's a lot of grief that exists without everything else that we're going through. So there's really a need for us to be gentle on ourselves and to one and other in all of this. Yeah. And in that kind of a , one of those myths, I think , um , where you said wash our hands, somehow the idea that this is not, it's not, we're not Anabaptists. And so it's not like we can like separate, you know, when we talked a little bit about the theology that grounds us, it's not that we can separate. We are in the world. We're part of the world. We respond to try to bring about a more just world understanding that we're not going to reach perfection on this side of the Jordan. And so in that we don't have clean money, we have no weed, we don't have any investment that is money that's clean. So I've heard people say, like, I don't want my money mixed up in there. And there's it's, there are definitely, it's definitely appropriate to have prophetic voice and use our money prophetically. That is definitely inappropriate response and approach. But to say one, you come from a certain amount of privilege to be able to say that you can afford to have money in a certain way, you can afford to, you know, so that I think that part of it needs to be recognized that not everyone is positioned to be able to say that that's what I'm trying to say. I'm not saying that it's , it's wrong to feel that way. I'm just saying that not everyone's positioned to be able to say that. So that's , that's one thing. And then the other thing is that your money may be clean there, but it may be dirty somewhere else. And that goes back to what I was saying about Reverend Dr. Simpson's understanding of environmental justice and that framing, that there are ways that, you know, that the other impacts can happen. And so we have a process that we follow. And so we don't have to get into the weeds of every single other thing that happens. But I do think that it's important that we recognize that we don't achieve perfection and that there are ways that, that other things become imbalanced or can become imbalanced in that, that doesn't mean that we don't go forward with divestment. One of those, another one of those myths are that we are corporate apologists. And it's always funny to me because I've had people that are like, since I've been chairing the committee and they hear this out there and it's like, Carrie Allen is not, is like the last person that I would think of in terms of,

Speaker 4:

I seen her live in corporate engagements with people and , uh, apologists is not a , not a term I would apply to you, Gary. So,

Speaker 3:

And that in general, that's, that's also, you know, we have, and I wouldn't say that with the, I mean, I'm just thinking of names of people that I've, and we don't have to list all of them, but names of other people on our committees that I've worked with, that we couldn't say that about any of them , um, as individuals and also in terms of our , the structural identity of the committee. So I think that's where grief and frustration are. That's where grief and frustration kind of come out, that we hear these things. And that's why I encourage us to be gentle on ourselves and to one another, especially in this type of climate that we live in culturally, where it's easy to kind of inadvertently perpetuate myths and inadvertently perpetuate things that aren't true. Um, so yeah,

Speaker 4:

And you know, one of the things on the frustration piece, I mean, I can completely empathize with anybody who is frustrated by not about the , about the process and not, or say the process is so complicated. I was staffing MRT , I , for two years, two years do this professionally before I understood it all before I wasn't like, oh, I was surprising , oh , we can't do that. That's not the way that works. I mean, it is incredibly complicated. And when, when this comes up at general assembly, we isolate in on like the most like technical technocratic piece of, of, of what MRDI does. And it is , and it is the most complicated to understand how all these, all these relationships work and what can be implemented and what can't be. One of the myths that I think is really important is this idea that, that the general assembly can direct the investment agencies on investment policy. And the JTA does not have that lever. And, you know, if you want, you know, kind of , uh, just evidence of that, the board of pensions has a as a great prohibited securities policy that his board passed in , uh, in October of 2019 posted on their website. And it essentially says two things about , about how their board can implement a divestment recommendation. It says two things need to happen. M RTI needs to make the recognition per the 19 84 7 step process from 84 policy. And the general assembly has to agree with that. Joseph has to say yes, that we agree with that VIN , then it can be implemented. Um, and the board has just has , has updated , uh , some of the language of that , um, of that policy. I encourage listeners to go to go take a look at that. And , um, so, so that's really the only way to, for implementation and, you know, and the reason for that, because it again, is that selective divestment. And because when we're talking about particular companies, we need that precision and particularity that's not just it like Simon, you know , maybe the hand washing. I mean, even when we divest there is a process for continued monitoring. Um, so, you know, it's completely in the realm of possibility. I don't maybe not likely, but in a real possibility that some of the companies that we advanced or divestment could change strategy and could, you know, through shareholder pressure, through regulatory pressure or through all kinds of other kinds of demand pressure, couldn't say, you know what, you're pivoting to become a , uh , you know, for , for a low carbon demand scenario , uh , low carbon demand economy. And we are going to change vastly changed strategy. Uh, that's already starting to happen a little bit with some of the European oil based oil and gas companies. Uh , now they're by no means there, but, but then they still need to be engaged and, you know, and, and you make sure that they're filling some of their commitments, but that, that could happen. So with MRC, once a company goes on, a divestment was for a conduct based reason. So conduct based reason, meaning meaning that there is a way that they can not be on this list, then they go on a different list and we monitor that, and there was a process for MRC at a poll to recommend taking a couple of companies off the list. So that's a really , um, you know, so I feel like that's a really, as Carrie alluded earlier, our reformed theology, I mean, there's an reformed theology. There is always a pathway to redemption and, and you know, our , um, or there , there, there is a pathway. This is a , uh , this is the way that we, for the conduct based companies, this is the , now the companies that are, that are, you know, the general assembly has said, has said, you know, these are just anathema or values like for-profit prisons, you know , for example, they , they're just going , if for any time there's a, there's a new for-profit prison that's publicly traded. It just immediately is going to go to the divestment was because there was a policy from the early two thousands that said, we believe that the incentivizing incarcerating God's children is anathema, breastfeeding and values. So , um, so there's, there's that , that goes to you in that more nuanced though, about, about what kinds of companies kind of industries end up on our , on, on the divestment list, which again is , is incredibly confusing. And for every time we say like, this is the way it is, I say, yeah, except, or yet, but

Speaker 3:

I think the important part of that, though, that you mentioned, you know, you said conduct, but it's policy it's based on what what's established as policy and the denomination that has come from the general assembly. And there's a whole process for how that policy is established. Right. And there's that assumes that, that God's working in that process. So, you know, I think that's, and that also leads to frustration when you're on the side that thinks that the policy should be different than what it is. And you don't see that policy going in that direction. That's hard, that's hard

Speaker 4:

For sure it is. And I've had people that you probably have to carry that, you know, that wants a really, you know, re-examine a, re-look at that at the divest in policy from the mid eighties. And you know, that that may be a worthwhile exercise. However, you know, if any change were to happen, they would have to involve , uh, members of the investigative agencies . So that, that, that's how it was all established , uh, you know , uh, 37 years ago, which is what , what can be implemented. And what's really interesting about the, another kind of, one of the myth-busting things I think is that the idea that the presser in church is late to the game on, on divestment. Well, a particular time about writing a screen, maybe , uh, maybe, but what, what, what pieces say would be the first to do, and I've, I've checked this, this, this out. I mean, I think this is still true , uh, with our partners, we would, if M RTI divested that vests at the next, ER , I'm sorry if the general assembly accepted the NRTI recommendation for divestment of 3, 4, 5, whatever companies, the person in charge will be the first and fall . My words very closely here because they, each of them matter the first institutional investor to selectively divest for environmental policy reasons only. And , and so, so nothing to do with financial return. I mean, there have been others that have, that have divested, you know , uh , have written larger screens and screened out, you know, coal or oil and gas, or got fossil free or whatever. And there've been others that have and have selectively divested, but for financial reasons and policy, environmental policy reasons, this would be only environmental policy reasons. And again, as Carrie mentioned earlier, divestment is not the goal of our engagement. It is, is an important tool, but as the last tool that we use, and it is really the only tool as small as small business , an investor that the presser in church is. I mean now to some, you know, we have lots of, you know , millions of dollars in some cases with some companies, you know, through our investigator C's , but that's still for , you know , a company that has a market capitalization of, you know, hundreds of billions of dollars that is a drop in drop in the bucket. However, if the Presbyterian church, you know, selectively divests from particular corporations that will make headlines that will make, you know, a big, you know, wall street journal, New York times , uh, that type of headline. And that is what the companies do not want. They don't want that, that reputational risk. And that's what ultimately started moving the needle. And this is not apples to apples, but I'm going to , I want to , I want to propose that it's fruits with like, in the apartheid situation, apartheid issue, it started moving the needle. When those companies, the really bad actors started having their names, you know, drug going through the mud, and then the less bad actors were saying, maybe we don't want that to be us next and started divesting assets or breaking , uh, breaking , uh , relations with the apartheid regime. And so , you know , it ultimately fell. So something

Speaker 1:

That you both mentioned was about, you know, there's clearly integrity to this process and it's, it's thought out, and there's a lot of collaboration. There's a lot of input. There is a lot of data gathering. There's a lot of consulting. There is a lot of engagement and I, and then that if I'm understanding correctly and then all of that can be put into, and sort of summarize in what you are calling these metrics, do other faith-based investors have metrics like this, or use a similar type of process. And , um, and how does that kind of compare to what the ways other faith-based investors are doing their engagement and trying to track and evaluate a company companies moving to be in line with, with specific values.

Speaker 4:

So one of the things on that is I'm a first, I'll say no other faith-based investor is structured like the presser in churches in this space. And we really are, in some ways have, I mean, this makes things complicated, but I think it's very effective. And, you know, and I think we do this work very well. And it's for a very Presbyterian reason. We have a committee, you know, and we have, we have these, these, these six, six entities that, I mean, okay. So I mean, the goals of, of one of the advocacy committees and the goals of one of the investment agencies are probably very different in some ways, but, but, you know, like, and Carrie under her leadership does a phenomenal job in my opinion of, of kind of bringing us all these perspectives together and saying, okay, we're all going to be looking at this through a different prism , uh, through our particular prison, but, but here's kind of the policy, here's the process. So it's really focused on the POS and bring your pers perspectives. And we've had some very good lively conversations and , and, and debate, and people really try to figure out how they can best represent their goals of their, of their entity. Um, but because we have this kind of, this , this connective tissue, which is the policy, and then the policy implementation Simon, which he was talking about, the , the guideline metrics that is really unique, I'm not aware of other investors that have that. And, and, you know, and we also are incredibly transparent about what we put all this up on our webpage on the MRC webpage and invite any listener to

Speaker 3:

Go there. And that also, I mean, I think what you're saying, I mean, let's this , we lead on this. It's not just that we're distinctive. We lead on this. The Presbyterian church is a leader in faith-based investing in the way that we have established our process in this metrics and guidelines that we've established in this, as we are looking at the issue of climate change and other, other faith-based investors have said. So, so we lead on that and we are transparent both internally for the denomination. And we're transparent as Rob said with these companies, which also , um , goes back to the idea of reputational risk, because we're saying, this is exactly where you're falling down. This is where you're failing, and then it's up to them to make decisions they've got choices. They can, they can decide to go in a different trajectory and, or they can, they can continue on that path. And then , um, you know, risk that reputational risk that comes along with that, that individual divestment , um , process. That is what our structure is, our processes , what it , what, what is, what is available to us as Presbyterians. That was a lot.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Um, but thank you all for being here and thank you all for, you know, schooling us a little bit and what NRTI does, and the process and doing a little bit of myth-busting . We always like to do that's another good podcast assignment .

Speaker 3:

Myth-busting myth-busting in the PCUSA . Yeah, that would be fascinating.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. There's so many misdemeanor to be busted. Yes ,

Speaker 2:

Indeed . Well, thank you all so much for being here.

Speaker 1:

I think we're going to transition now to our resource Roundup section and keep Rob with us. Um, so Rob, what are ways that Presbyterians can take advantage of some of the resources that the committee on mission responsibility through investment provides?

Speaker 4:

So again, the , the committee that I staff the committee on mission responsibility through investment produces , uh , two , two resources for the church Presbyterian church and , and really anybody, if they're available on our, on our website, that people that are, or Presbyterians or others or people that are, that have investments can, can reference. And , uh , so one is our divestment prescription list, which is a collection of the companies that run a foul of general assembly policy that we produce every year and say, you know, these are the companies that the general assembly has, you know , Dell's policy has , um, as deemed as out of compliance or, you know, has the Joseph , we set the policy in MRDI through engagement or through research has said, you know, these companies are out of, out of compliance. And those include companies that are , uh, weapons, producers , uh , tobacco companies , uh, for-profit prisons , uh , certain companies that have human rights violations and very potentially ensued. I think there'll be some that show up on that list for embark run of Elmer environmental policy. So there's that, and what, you know, that can be for investment committees , uh, for, for carnations or Preston entities that have endowments that want to align their equity portfolios with the policies of the in church, the other is a proxy voting guidelines, and this is somewhat technical, but if you own, if somebody owns direct shares, equity shares of a company, they are entitled, they have the rights to vote at the annual stockholders' meeting and register a vote. So we M RTI reviews , um, you know, hundreds of shareholder proposals that are submitted by our partners through the coalitions, in which we work and offer guidance on how think investors should vote. And I obviously are the two biggest kind of consumers of that product are the board of pensions and the foundation that had a lot of shares, a lot of the companies, and they vote that way. So, you know, unlike electoral voting where it's one person, one boat , it is, you know, one shareholder can own hundreds of shares. And , and so that's hundreds of votes potentially. So , uh , again, that's something that we produce every spring. It comes out April or somewhere around there, and that's where an individual can send to their financial advisor and say, we would like you to vote your shares and our shares in this way. And we have instructions on how to do that on our, on our, on our webpage. And , uh , so yeah, so those are the two, the two biggest ways. I think if we also help congregations and other entities help them think about writing social, social , responsible investment policies, and we have, we have those available , uh, that we can help , uh, help resource in that way. Thanks ,

Speaker 1:

Rob . That's really great that people are, it's great to hear that the church takes its mission responsibility through investment seriously, and also offers opportunities for congregations to be able to do that as well. Uh , we'll be sure to have links in the show notes to all of the policies, organizations, and resources that you mentioned. Thanks again for being with us today, Rob.

Speaker 4:

So I'm going to leave . It's been an absolute pleasure. Appreciate it.

Speaker 1:

This has been the matter of faith podcast brought to you by the Presbyterian peacemaking program and Unbound. If you would like to submit a question for discussion, you can do [email protected], we look forward to hearing from you, see you next time, see you next time. Y'all

Speaker 2:

Thanks everyone for listening to episode 17 of a matter of fate of Presby podcast, don't forget to subscribe with your favorite podcast platform.

Speaker 1:

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