We’re sometimes asked, “Does Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) really do or achieve anything?” The answer is a resounding yes! Several years ago two gentlemen found themselves at an airport waiting for the same flight. To the dismay of both of them, the flight was delayed several hours.
They struck up a conversation and found they had several mutual interests – sports teams, a love of classic cars, etc. One of the men noticed that the other had Merrill Lynch materials and asked if he worked for them. Yes, he worked in back-office operations in New York.
“Well tell me this,” the first man said. “I’m [an executive] with the Marriott Corporation and I understand that some of Merrill Lynch’s funds won’t invest in the Marriott Corporation. Why is that?”
“Marriott, the hotel company?” the Merrill Lynch gentleman asked. “Yes, replied the Marriott executive.”
The Merrill Lynch gentleman scratched his head, chuckled and said “That’s not my department. Our people in Chicago perform those reviews, but I can’t think of a reason why Marriott would be excluded from any of our portfolios. Give me your name and number and I’ll look into it.”
The Marriott executive gave him a business card, not really expecting to hear back from him, and they continued their conversation.
Weeks later, the Marriott executive came into his office to see his voicemail light flashing on his phone. It was a call from his friend at Merrill Lynch. The reason Marriott was excluded from investments by at least one client – the United Methodist Church – was because a portion of Marriott’s revenues came from the rentals of pornographic movies in their hotel rooms.
Within a year, Marriott’s policies were changed and it’s no longer possible to rent pornographic movies in a Marriott Hotel. Was it that chance encounter and conversation or would Marriott have come to that decision on their own? We’ll probably never know, but we’re now proud to have investments in Marriott International Inc. (ticker symbol MAR) – not only because their stock is thought to be a good financial investment, but also because their values are aligned with ours.
Does Socially Responsible Investing really do anything? You bet it does!