Churches and their endowments have long been leaders in socially
responsible investing, but those efforts are increasingly moving beyond
divestment into more proactive approaches, including impact investing
and corporate engagement.
In addition to negative screening and divestment, religious organizations
are embracing shareholder engagement, thematic investments — choosing
to invest in companies or industries that are aligned with their
organization’s goals — and impact investing. The proactive turn has been
encouraged by growing investor sophistication, better coalition building,
and the Pope, who encouraged Catholic organizations to embrace impact
investing in a 2014 speech.
“I think that was a turning point for several of the clients that we work with, where they started thinking in a more proactive framework,” Kristine
Pelletier, a member of NEPC’s endowment and foundation practice, told
FER. “A lot of institutions felt that call to action, and maybe that put more
fire into some initiatives that were already going on.”