Socially Responsible Investing

I started boycotting MPAA (Motion Pictures Association of America) back in late 90s when the movie industry began going after everyone with the DeCSS code on their sites or even sites with just links to the code. My boycott of MPAA involved not going to the movie theaters (well, at least not paying out of my own pocket) and not buying or renting any legitimate copies of movies. My financial boycott of MPAA lasted more than three years and it ended when a judge threw out the case by MPAA. When i learned about Nike’s sweatshops in Vietnam, i started boycotting Nike products. I have not bought any Nike products since i started my boycott. A few years ago, when i learned about the horrific labor practices of Exxon Mobil in Indonesia, i stopped getting gas from its gas stations. I refuse to buy any products made in Israel because of its occupation of the Palestinian territories and its grave human rights abuses in the occupied territories.

After watching the documentary “The Corporation“, i started asking myself, since i am already not buying any products of the companies/countries that i am boycotting, why don’t i take it up another notch and stop investing in them as well? Why should i invest my money in companies/corporations known to operate sweatshops in third world countries, manufacture products without any care to the damages inflicted to the environment, selling weapon systems knowing that they will be used not in defense but in killing and destroying civilizations? The Israelis are already getting more than $3 billion dollars a year out of my hard-earned tax dollars, why should i cough up more money for Israeli firms so that Israel can continue its land theft and the gradual ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians?

You are probably thinking, what difference does withholding my meager contribution make? Well, probably negligible. That is, if everyone thinks that way. If everyone thinks that way, things will remain the same. Corporations will not be held accountable for their immoral and unethical actions in the process of making billions of dollars for its executives, and countries will not be punished or sanctioned while they continue to flout every known human rights law.

So starting today, i will make sure that the portfolios i have in my 401K retirement plan and Roth IRA follow the guideline listed below:

  1. No “defense” industry-related companies. I don’t see how it is morally comprehensible for companies to make money off killing and maiming by selling weapons of mass destructions. Even if only a portion of a company is involved in this industry, they will not get a penny from me. So Boeing is out.
  2. No companies with known records of destroying the environment.
  3. No tobacco companies.
  4. No Israeli firms. As long as Israel continues to occupy the land it forcibly took in 1967, they can kiss my investment goodbye. Right now, i will not invest in companies based in Israel or with strong ties to Israel. Eventually, my goal is to include companies with investments in Israel, like Microsoft, HP, Intel, Starbucks, McDonalds and so on. There are currently several campaigns to divest from Israel.
  5. No Caterpillar. Even when confronted with facts that the Israelis are using their bulldozers to tear down Palestinian homes (either as a form of collective punishment or continuation of the process to steal land for settlements), Caterpillar continues to sell bulldozers and equipments to the state of Israel.
  6. No companies with bad labor practices.

I am sure this list will be expanded.

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