Dick’s Sporting Goods Ends Sale of Assault Rifles

February 28, 2018

Experience in the Church

My experience as a lay volunteer has given me unique preparation to provide leadership as a Church Pension Fund Trustee in the 21st Century.

As a lay volunteer for the Episcopal Church I have concentrated on responsible investing. I first became involved with responsible investing while a student at Union Theological Seminary, where we focused on the role of U.S. based corporations, such as General Motors and Citibank, in supporting apartheid in South Africa.

Since 1985 I have worked to apply my experience gained in the world and in the Church to help the Episcopal Church as it has engaged in responsible investing, a vital part of TEC’s witness in the world.

My service on TEC committees is summarized here. Here are important elements of my experience:

  • Dick’s Sporting Goods – Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Responsibility (CCSR) has been working with other faith based investor members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) to bring gun safety to the attention of retailers of guns. CCSR proposed to Council that it adopt the Sandy Hook Principles, and in June 2017, Council did so. (The Sandy Hook Principles were developed by the Mayor of Philadelphia and adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.) Later in 2017, acting on CCSR recommendation, TEC co-filed a shareholder resolution with Dick’s Sporting Goods asking that it respond to the Sandy Hook Principles. (TEC owns shares in DSG.) The dialogue with DSG was successful – DSG agreed to consider the principles. The co-filers agreed to withdraw their shareholder resolution. Then the Parkland shootings happened. And then DSG surprised everyone by announcing it would stop selling assault rifles in all its stores. What this teaches: Shareholder activism can have a positive impact – and company managements can surprise you in good ways.
  • Investing for responsible social and environmental outcomes/EJLC With others I worked in the 1990s to educate Church leaders to understand that the Church was legally permitted to invest for a financial return (as it always does in investing) and, at the same time, to act to promote responsible social or environmental outcome(s) through that investment – what is sometimes called the “double bottom line.” That, in fact, is the law in New York, where the Church is incorporated, although in the 1990s few understood this.

    After some effort, we were successful in educating those leaders. Then we worked with Executive Council to help Council develop and form the Economic Justice Loan Committee (EJLC). I became the first chair of EJLC

    EJLC does community investing by using TEC investment assets to make loans to community development financial institutions such as credit unions and loan funds that in turn make loans for affordable housing, community business development and environmental and social service programs.

    Through the work of EJLC we have demonstrated to the Church that the “double bottom line” can be achieved. The EJLC loans produce the social and environmental benefits sought, and, as investments, they generate the expected revenue, which goes directly to support TEC’s budget.

    Impact investing, as carried on, for example, by the CPF, is conceptually the same as community investing, but with somewhat different investment characteristics and terms. That is, I know impact investing.

  • In the Diocese From 2014-2016 I served as the chair of the Task Force on Socially and Environmentally Responsible Investing of the Diocese of New York. The diverse membership of the task force worked for over a year to develop practical responsible investing proposals supported by a strong report, with a focus on climate change and divestment. The diocesan convention adopted the report and all its proposals. Now diocesan institutions and parishes are implementing them. What this teaches: Dioceses and parishes can do responsible investing.
  • Adopting responsible investing across the Church That experience in the Diocese of New York and my 33 years of experience working for TEC on responsible investing have led me to conclude that now is the time for the Episcopal Church to adopt responsible investing as a Church-wide effort.
    The Church has half a century of experience with responsible investing. In many corners of the Church, including the CPF, good work has been done and is being done. But much more could be done, if the whole Church gave proper weight to this aspect of mission among all the others the Church pursues.

    That conclusion led me to work with others, many from the Diocese of New York, to develop a broad resolution for General Convention to affirm all TEC’s past and present responsible investing work and to call for consideration of responsible investing, in all its elements, by all Church institutional investors. That resolution is now D008 Practicing Responsible Investing

    As noted above, the Church Pension Fund already does responsible investing through
    shareholder advocacy and impact investing. (For more on this, see the explanation to Resolution D008.) Going forward the CPF needs Trustees who understand the field and who can help guide the CPF in prudent and effective investing that includes responsible investing. I am well qualified by experience and training to deal with the wide range of issues a CPF Trustee will have to address, including all aspects of investing and responsible investing.