BALTIMORE - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) convened their November General Assembly in Baltimore this week. During their meeting, one of the action items voted on and approved by the bishops was the formal statement, “Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines.” The full body of bishops approved it by a two-thirds majority vote of 216 to 10 with 5 abstentions.
The bishops’ working group on revising the guidelines was led by Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee of Budget and Finance and included the input of multiple Conference committee chairmen to obtain input from various perspectives. The working group was guided by Christian Brothers Investing Services, Inc. and seventeen different subject matter experts representing a wide variety of focus areas, from investment firms, religious, accounting/financial experts, and notable collegiate experts. The working group also convened two Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) research providers.
The Conference first issued investing guidelines in 1991 and last updated in 2003. The guidelines build and expand upon earlier guidelines developed and used by the USCCB for its financial investing and are intended to provide clear policies to guide the Conference’s investments and other activities related to corporate responsibility. Recognizing its leadership role in establishing principles for Catholic investing, the document acknowledges that many dioceses, eparchies, and religious communities will also seek to apply these guidelines through their own policies on corporate responsibility. The guidelines provide an accessible framework for Catholic institutions and dioceses that want to make investment decisions.
“Overall, the guidelines see a three-pronged investment strategy based on the defense and promotion of life: avoid doing harm, actively work for change, and promote the common good,” said Bishop Parkes. “Collectively, these form our investment strategy and are the lens through which any individual investment opportunity is evaluated. The key is that we invest if we can affect positive change and divest or don’t invest where we can’t,” he continued.
Some of the significant changes in the update of the text include incorporating the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis; extending all five sections of policies, with significant updates to areas concerning the common good and the environment; and adding new areas such as media, telecommunications, and impact investing. The updated investment guidance, in addition to its emphasis on shareholder engagement, includes expansions on environmental issues. The investing guidelines, which offer a Catholic perspective on ethical and socially responsible investing, build on the Conference’s historical work proclaiming the Gospel in the midst of a complex economic world.
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