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Abortion still top concern among Catholic investors

.- In a Top Ten list of issues, about which Catholic investors in 2004 are most concerned, abortion takes first place, says a new survey conducted by Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc. (CBIS).

In second place is environmental justice, pornography production and universal access to health care are tied for third, military weapons contractors comes in fourth, and fetal tissue/embryonic stem-cell research is in fifth place. The CBIS is the leading U.S. investment manager, which serves Catholic institutions exclusively. It manages $3.5 billion in assets.

A similar survey in 2001 abortion came out in the top spot as well. However, sweatshops were second, military weapon contractors were third and universal access to health care was fourth. Embryonic stem-cell research was also ranked fifth three years ago. And the production of pornography was tenth.

Two new issues emerged in the Top Ten list this year: environmental justice (in second) and violence in the mainstream media, which came in sixth. Responsible operations in developing countries came in seventh. The concern over sweatshops plummeted to eighth place. The distribution of sexually explicit entertainment and pornography in the mainstream media came ninth, and affordable AIDS drugs in developing countries took the tenth spot.

CBIS executive vice president Francis Coleman says the poll helps the company “ensure that our socially responsible investing policy is aligned with the views of our participants.”

As well, 82 percent of those polled believe shareholder advocacy, also referred to as “active ownership.”

Active ownership aims to change corporate behavior through shareholder activism in the form of proxy voting, dialogue and/or filing shareholder resolutions with corporations.

The survey also found solid backing among the Catholic investors for what CBIS refers to as "principled purchasing," a strategy that restricts and excludes investments in certain companies generating goods or services – such as tobacco and pornography –that conflict with Catholic values.

The 2004 survey polled 151 Catholic institutional investors, including dioceses, religious orders, hospitals and educational facilities.

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