portfolio statements used to make me fall asleep. The
numbers would blur before my eyes; I couldn't even remember
the total assets from one quarter to the next, much less
any details about individual investments.
A few years later, I now
examine each statement as it arrives, curious to glean
changes in my financial condition and relieved that words
like "cost basis" and "return" have become comfortably
familiar. Yet I have to admit: my investments still feel
unreal to me--just words and numbers floating on a page,
the companies and products simply abstractions. Flesh
and blood people must lie behind them, but who are they?
What is my relationship to these people, given that my
small share of stock makes me a part-owner?
I flip through annual reports,
investment magazines, advertisements for mutual funds,
and the language they use heightens my sense of disconnection.
"Competition for highest return."
Trying to understand the impact of investments through
words like these seems akin to experiencing war through
the reports of well-groomed TV anchors, or springtime
by whiffing a bathroom spray called "May Blossoms."
We, the editors, decided
to focus this issue of
More than Money
Human Side of Investing" because we wanted to penetrate
this veil of unreality, to somehow make vivid the fabric
of relationships that underlie all investments. We also
wanted to learn from people who have become personally
involved in their investments and who have used them as
an expression of their concern for the world.
While the most common way
to do "socially-responsible investing" (or SRI) is to
"screen" stocks and bonds, here we focus most on stories
of people pursuing less familiar strategies: shareholder
activism, community investment, and socially-responsible
venture capital. (If you're unfamiliar with any of these
terms, see "What Is Socially-Responsible Investing?")
Their stories are inspiring. These pioneers are trying
to build a new and more human economy glimpsed in the
back cover poem by Robin Davidson.
As for me, the demands
of parenting and directing the Impact Project keep me
from much "hands on" investing. Yet, I did manage to switch
to an investment firm where I have greater say in selecting
socially-screened investments. The firm is also quite
engaged in shareholder activism, and has just invited
me to come visit one of the local companies in my portfolio!
We can't all be pioneers, but we can take the next step
before us. And the next....
--Anne Slepian, for the
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