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History of SRI and the UUA

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has been involved with Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) for many years. In 1966, the UUA, the United Church of Christ, the Methodists, and the Teachers Investment Annuity Association/College Retirement Fund (TIAA/CREF) made the first successful attempt to influence corporate behavior. As stockholders of Eastman Kodak, they convinced Kodak's board of directors that they had a responsibility to the African-American residents of Rochester, NY, and should provide them with a proportionate share of Kodak's available jobs. This proved to be the first time shareholders were able to sponsor a socially responsible resolution and to influence a company's public policies at an annual shareholders meeting.

In 1967, the UUA passed two resolutions regarding the Eastman/Kodak dispute with the organization FIGHT. That year the General Assembly also passed a business resolution, creating an Investment Policy (PDF, 28 pages) that requested the UUA Board of Trustees "exercise the power represented by the Association's ownership of common stock as an effective instrument for promoting social justice."

In 1968, the UUA's Investment Committee was created; some of the responsibilities of the Committee included ensuring that socially responsible investing remained a part of the UUA's investment procedures. In 1970, it set aside $500,000, or just over five percent of the UUA's endowment, to be invested in "enterprises which make a high social contribution."

It wasn't until the early 1970s, however, that investment boycotting made any significant impact on corporate America. When the mainline religious community recognized how much economics influenced government decisions, it decided to address the immorality of apartheid in South Africa. An interfaith investment boycott of those firms doing business in South Africa was organized. The religious community was joined by hundreds of universities, colleges, and public pension funds. As a result, tens of billions of investment dollars were systematically diverted from firms doing business in South Africa. The boycott's success was widely recognized as America's largest corporations discontinued their operations in South Africa.

1972's General Assembly called for "Social Responsibility in the Investment of Endowment Funds," in yet another business resolution. The next year, in 1973, a resolution entitled "Corporate Social Responsibility and UUA Investments" was passed, urging the UUA "to promote better corporate social policies and practices in areas such as equal employment opportunity for women and minorities, environmental protection, consumerism, foreign investment and military production."

Over the years the General Assembly has passed several resolutions having to do with socially responsible investing. They are available by going to the Social Justice Statements page and searching the online database.

In 1999 the Board of Trustees established the Task Force on Socially Responsible Investing. This group presented its report to the Board of Trustees (PDF, 10 pages) in June of 2000, recommending that an SRI Committee be established.

[Thanks and credit are due to Rev. Bill Gardiner, former Director of Congregational Justice-Making, for providing some of the information and text in this summary].

For more information contact responsibleinvesting @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Friday, June 17, 2011.

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