As the recent tragedy in South Florida illustrates, school shooting has become a national epidemic. Impact investing gives us the ability to vote to end gun violence with our dollar signs. Financial advisors, stock market investors, and public market participants who dream of a safer society for our children may wish to consider impact investing as a way to design their portfolios to mirror their values.
Most People Hold Gun Stocks (Without Knowing It)
When you drill down, it’s evident that gun-related stocks are as present in our investment portfolios as in our society. These include sporting goods companies, ammunition producers, retail stores who sell guns, ammunition, and gun accessories, weapons manufacturers, and other weapons distributors.
Most people hold gun stocks in their commingled vehicles (ETFs or mutual funds) without even knowing it. Because the stocks are held in a basket of securities, investors don’t realize that they are even holding them.
Several mutual funds offered by major mutual fund families invest, to some extent, in firearm companies. Some of these vehicles are top rated, household name funds that hold hundreds of billions of assets. Visit Goodbye Gun Stocks to see if your mutual funds are holding gun-related companies. You can even tell the amount of your total investments invested in these companies.
Impact Investing: Using Your Money to Make Your Voice Heard
Knowledge and awareness are the first step, but what can a person do if they want to use their money to actually fight gun violence?
Impact Investing refers to the practice of making investments with the goal of generating a measurable, positive impact alongside a traditional financial return. To be truly considered an impact investment, the benefit to society must be one that would not have occurred without the investment.
Many impact investors are guided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. The SDG #16 Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions aims to “significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime” by 2030.
Financial advisors may help their clients uphold this SDG in their portfolios through investment screening, shareholder advocacy, and following the money.
Impact investors encourage investment in companies who are responsive to societal concerns and provide beneficial products and services. They typically seek to invest in organizations that promote diversity, sound corporate governance, safe and healthy labor practices, strong communities, and respect for the environment.
- Investing in companies who avoid the manufacture and distribution of weapons.
- Investing in only payment processing companies who refuse to allow firearm purchases.
Many impact investors will embrace socially responsible investing, or SRI, which takes the approach of avoiding investment in companies that lead to poor outcomes for society and seeking out those which are positive or beneficial such as clean energy. Typical exclusionary screens restrict investment in stocks such as tobacco, gambling, pornography or sexually explicit gaming.
To support gun control, impact investing advisors should ask their clients if they wish to refrain from investing in weapons manufacturing and distribution companies. One of our advisors, for example, removed a company because one of the videos instructs someone on how to shoot someone from your car without removing your seat belt.
Certain credit cards have strategic alliances with the NRA. While many of them would pass certain sustainability screens for other factors, they would be restricted from portfolios with a firearm exclusion.
Impact investors also encourage greater shareholder advocacy. Some mutual funds will actively engage on issues such as gun control and attempt to make changes inside of companies by way of proxy voting. Usually this is accomplished by working with other groups such as Ceres, or As You Sow.
Advocacy is important because it gives companies the message that investors care about these issues. By doing so, it sends the message to weapons companies that they must accept their responsibility.
Pressure on Politicians
Nothing puts the squeeze on politicians more than cutting off their cash flow.
Impact investing encourages transparency of corporate donations. Stakeholders in public companies should “follow the money” and be aware of corporate dollars flowing towards politicians who support firearms. Financial advisors can also encourage their clients to donate to politicians that advocate for stricter gun control laws. Data on how money is donated to politicians can be found on the Follow The Money or Open Secrets websites.
Click here for a list of the Florida politicians who accepted donations from the National Rifle Association.
Summary on Impacting Investing and Gun Violence
Impact investing provides gives a voice to those investors and financial advisors who wish to restrict the availability of firearms and create a safer society. For more information, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.