Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Starting a carnival about our values and our financial decisions?

What do you think about starting a carnival about money and values issues?  It's been sort of a dream of mine ever since I started this blog.
I keep coming across new blogs that are already addressing the convergence of values and personal finance, in their own fascinating and diverse ways.   I am so excited about the possibility of helping to create more of a community for us, by linking us together regularly through a carnival (and other ways too, if people are interested!).  And I also think it would be incredible if it could stimulate bloggers to start writing (or writing more) about their own take on money and values.  Plus it could provide a great resource by gathering these kinds of posts together for interested readers.
I'm not sure how much interest and participation there would be, so I was thinking it would make most sense to do a once-a-month carnival, at least at first-- what do you think?  (We could do it, say, on the first Tuesday or Wednesday of every month.)  And I don't know how many people would be interested in hosting, so I'm glad to host them all myself if need be (but also more than glad to rotate hosting if there's interest-- please let me know!).  If the response is good, I think we could kick this off as early as January.  What do you think?  

Since there are lots of great bloggers who I think might be interested but probably don't read Money and Values, I'll be reaching out to them individually.  But for those of you who are here reading, please leave a comment!  I'd love your thoughts and suggestions in general, as well as some specific questions I have:

  • Do you think this is a good idea?
  • Would you participate?
  • Would you host?
  • Do you have suggestions of how to get the word out to potentially interested bloggers (either individual people you think we should contact, or strategies to reach segments of the blogosphere)?
  • And, of course, what the heck should we call it?  I am half-tempted by the simple "Carnival of Money and Values," although that's a little weird because of the name of my blog.  Or maybe "Carnival of Socially Conscious Personal Finances"?   Any other ideas?

The Carnival of Personal Finance is here next week!

That's right, get your submissions in for the Carnival of Personal Finance for next week! I'll be hosting the December 4th edition. You can use this form. And if your post has something to do with the connection between money and values it will get extra special treatment here... you know what I like!

Carnival of Personal Finance is here next week!

That's right, get your submissions in for the Carnival of Personal Finance for next week!  I'll be hosting the December 4th edition.  You can use this form.  And if your submission has something to do with the connection between money and your values (point it out in the comments if you think I might miss it) it will get extra special treatment here... you know what I like!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Why GLBT-friendly policies are smart for businesses and investors

While updating my post Socially Conscious Finances: Spotlight on GLBT today, I noticed a comment which I'd meant to respond to but hadn't gotten around to. The commenter suggested that companies are financially better off avoiding gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender issues because they'll have people upset with them either way. My main reason for supporting GLBT-friendly companies (and avoiding those that are anti-GLBT) is because I believe it's the right thing to do. But I also think the commenter is wrong, and that it's smart financially for businesses to do right by GLBT people-- and consequently for investors to pick companies that do so.

Anonymous wrote:

Isn't this kind of a double edged sword? One group of people will love these companies yet another group (Social Conservatives) will hate them. Wouldn't it be in a companies best interest to just try and avoid the whole issue as much as possible?

Well, first off, there's no such thing as "avoiding the whole issue"-- if you stick with your status quo, and that status quo is a hostile/unfriendly one for GLBT employees, then that's not being neutral/"fair"/whatever, it's anti-GLBT. (This perception comes up a lot-- that avoiding change is a neutral choice, when it's actually supporting the status quo.) I suppose the closest a company could get to "avoiding the whole issue" would be to adopt policies somewhere in the middle of the pack, after many other companies have done so but before they're clearly lagging, either, so they don't draw much attention.

Secondly, I'm not convinced the two sides cancel each other out from a consumer standpoint. One recent poll found that heterosexual respondents favor workplace non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation 62% to 14% (the rest neither supported nor opposed)-- and even more revealingly, 44% strongly support non-discrimination policies and only 8% strongly oppose. People feel similarly about equal benefits such as health insurance for domestic partners: 68% support them (55% strongly) and only 17% oppose (10% strongly). Those who support discrimination may be vocal, but I think their buying power is more than drowned out by those of us who believe everyone should be treated fairly and want to incorporate that into our purchases.

But thirdly, even if good GLBT policies don't help companies attract consumers, I think they're still a total no-brainer. Companies succeed by recruiting and keeping good employees-- and that's what these policies are all about. While I suppose there might be some people who'd refuse on principle to work in a place that treats GLBT employees fairly, it's hard to imagine that would come close to the impact that those policies have on attracting and retaining gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender employees.

And not only do these policies make it easier for companies to hire and keep the best employees-- regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression-- but they also help those employees to be happier and more productive. If you're worrying about how to cover medical bills for your partner and/or kids who don't have health insurance (and can't get access to yours); if you're transgender and trying to go through gender transition but you can't afford hormones and/or surgery because your company's health insurance excludes it and/or you can't get leave for surgery; if you're harassed and discriminated against and denied promotions because of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression, and there's no anti-discrimination policy or diversity training at your workplace to help... these things are obviously going to interfere with your ability to do your job well. Companies which understand that supporting employees is in their best interest are more likely to succeed.

So as far as I'm concerned, it's an easy choice for companies to institute these policies. Not only are they the right thing to do for employers who want to treat employees fairly, but they're going to pay off in the bottom line, too. So for those of us looking for places to invest our money, it makes for an easy choice, too-- we can do right by our principles and our pocketbooks.

What do you think?

[Note the edit on the Spotlight on GLBT post to acknowledge the differences between the HRC rankings and The Advocate's list, courtesy of Dana at Mombian.]

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The diverse motivations for socially conscious financial decisions

I've tried and failed for months now to write a post addressing criticism of SRI/socially conscious personal finance strategies. Gradually it's occured to me that my problem is the diversity of reasons (or perceived reasons) for pursuing such approaches; if you misunderstand why people are doing something, your critique and their defense are going to go right past eachother.

So I thought I'd start by laying out some of the reasons I can think of for socially responsible financial decisions (I'm defining that as including not only investing and banking but also shopping/consuming):

  • "I want to have a direct, positive social impact."
    • This is certainly an admirable goal, and one that many of us do indeed have. But it seems like detractors get the impression that this is our only motivation, and try to tear down socially conscious investing by debunking it. And in some cases they can do a good job of that. While there are certainly some socially conscious financial practices that I think are solidly, directly positive-- community development banking, for one-- it's also true that it's harder to find a clear link between, say, investing in a socially responsible mutual fund and seeing a direct positive impact in the world. If that's your only motivation, you're likely to be disappointed.
  • "I want to have an indirect effect and influence other people."
    • This is probably the biggest one for me. I know that I alone have a very small impact. But I believe very strongly in the principle of considering the social impact of financial decisions-- and I want as many people as possible to a) be exposed to that viewpoint and b) start doing the same. So for me, a lot of why I do it is to help make it more visible. I do it so there'll be news stories talking about how much it's grown. I do it so I can tell you guys about it on my blog! That sounds kind of silly, but I think it's important.
  • "I do it because of how it makes me feel."
    • I think there are two sides to this. One is to do it because it makes you feel good about yourself. I'm not saying that's completely a bad thing (it helps provide the psychological support to keep you going, for one), but I do think it can be problematic when it makes folks complacent. You have to be realistic about what your choices actually accomplish, and not let other opportunities slip past you because you're wrapped up in the smug feeling of being a do-gooder.
    • But on the other hand, I think it's really valid to want your financial decisions to be consistent with your values. It's a decision about living your life more fully in tune with what you believe, and feeling better, more comfortable, more authentic as a result. This is important to me-- something seems to click into place when I'm making a values-based choice, so that I feel more at peace with myself. The challenge here, of course, is that it is virtually impossible to totally avoid financial choices that have problematic implications, so when you become more conscious of the context of your decisions, you also end up feeling like more of a hypocrite, complicit in things you oppose. I think the key here is just to be realistic about what options you actually have, and instead of kicking yourself when good choices are difficult or unavailable, get involved in increasing the options for everyone.
What do you think? Do you think of yourself as making socially conscious financial decisions? If so, do these describe your reasons, or are there others I've missed? (I'd love to hear you talk about your reasons and motivations in your own words!) If you don't, why not? Is it a practical choice-- "It doesn't do enough/any good; I can find better ways to support my values"-- or are you opposed in principle?

Related posts:
Guide to Socially Responsible Investing: Part 1 (what is SRI?) and Part 2 (some SRI options)
Community Development Banking
Socially Conscious Finances: Spotlight on GLBT
All about fair trade and where to find it
Locally-owned businesses vs. corporate chains

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I'm back

Hi all, I'm back! Expect a real post from me tomorrow, and then I'll be more or less back on schedule. In the meantime, I'd love it if you could tell me what I've missed-- I haven't been paying any attention to pfblogs for weeks. What have the best posts been? (And there's no shame in plugging your own!) Has there been big news, debate, or controversy over certain issues? Are there any community blogging projects in the hopper that I might not have heard about? And of course, any good discussions around money and values?

[Edited to add: okay, fine, so it wasn't "tomorrow"...]

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Back soon

Sorry for being MIA... there have been some unexpected personal issues that have come up.  I expect to be back posting within a week or so, maybe sooner.  In the meantime, enjoy all the other great blogs you can find linked in my sidebar or at pfblogs.org.