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May 12, 2000
Social Investors Rise to New Challenges at National Conference
by Philip Johansson
At a meeting held in New York this week, socially responsible investment professionals reveled in a
decade of outstanding growth, but did not rest on their laurels.
Leaders in the socially responsible investment industry met in New York this week at an annual
conference titled "Making a Profit While Making a Difference." Held at the Marriott World Trade
Center Hotel, May 10-12, the conference served as a vital springboard for preparing social
investing to meet the challenges of the new millennium.
"The socially responsible
investment industry has put into place an ongoing collection and reporting system based on global
corporate accountability," said Amy Domini, Managing Principle and Founder of Domini Social
Investments and Co-Creator of the Domini Social Index (DSI). "Nothing like this existed before we
came, and nothing would have existed. This is the great change that we've brought to the world."
Domini's rousing keynote speech reinforced the great strides that social investing has
made in the ten years since the inception of the DSI, including overcoming the apparent challenges
of social research and performance. But she also focused on new challenges to be faced in future
decades, a theme which resounded throughout panel discussions and exhibitions throughout the
Despite entering the vocabulary of the financial industry and significantly
altering the way business is done, social investors are still confronted with growing injustice and
environmental degradation around the world. The wealth gap continues to grow, prisons are full to
the point of bursting, toxic pollutants cycle through the food chain, and natural resources are
being depleted at an unprecedented rate.
"Our children and grandchildren look to us with a
question that we refuse to acknowledge," said Domini. "Why have we committed ourselves to use up
the planet and its life-giving resources in our generation rather than allow the tens of thousands
of generations that might have followed?"
Domini maintained that because of a fundamental
schism between finance and society, corporate managers are only held responsible for making money,
at all costs. She asserted that it was within the power of shareholders to bring the society back
into finance, and that this will be the future role and responsibility of social investors.
The expanding influence of social investors in the corporate arena was echoed in the comments
of keynote speakers Ben Cohen, Co-Founder of Ben & Jerry's, and Terry Mollner, President of
Meadowbrook Lane Capital. Mollner, a key negotiator in Ben & Jerry's buyout by Unilever, expressed
optimism that the acquisition represented a further dissemination of socially responsible
principles to a multinational corporate audience.
California State Treasurer Philip
Angelides, in his keynote address, announced a new "Double Bottom Line" initiative to broaden
economic returns of public pension funds by including comprehensive community development
investments. Terry Mollner commented that Angelides was the public administrator that social
investors have dreamed of for twenty years, and represented a significant breakthrough for the
All speakers at "Making a Profit While Making a Difference" were confident that
they could build on the past years of excellent growth and development to further break down
barriers to corporate responsibility. Given the high caliber and enthusiasm of the participants, it
would be hard not to agree with them.
"We can be a powerful voice, the voice of owners of
corporations, urging that our investment return not come at the price of jeopardizing our twin
goals of justice and environmental sustainability," said Domini. "Fiduciary responsibility must no
longer be defined as 'make me money.' Make money, yes, but making money is different from stealing
money from our grandchildren."
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