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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Religious investors affect corporate America

In the 25 years the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility has been operating, American corporations have changed their views of religious investors, and religious investors have "wised up" to what makes corporate America tick. That's what Timothy H. Smith, ICCR executive director, told the ELCA Advisory Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility at its Jan. 18 meeting.

"Initially a lot of corporations were hostile when religious groups as shareholders raised questions with them," Smith said. "In turn we also understand much more of what makes a corporation move, what shapes it."

The Division for Church in Society of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America--through its advisory committee--counsels a shareholder network on resolutions expressing the concerns of the church that the network could offer the corporations. That network comprises ELCA seminaries, colleges, social ministry organizations, some congregations and the Board of Pensions--all institutions that benefit from stocks held by endowments and foundations.

As shareholders, Lutherans want the companies to be successful, said Marian Nickelson, ELCA director for corporate social responsibility. The ideal is a cooperative effort that would "improve their bottom line and improve their relationship with their employees and with their shareholders," she said.

The advisory committee recommended that in 1997 the ELCA use its shareholder status to effect change in three general areas: health care, energy and the environment, and equality in the workplace.


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