Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Different Kind of Social Investment

Kudos to BB&T Bank

Social investment (SI) is a way for investors (all of us) to put our money where our mouth is. The best example of this was the help Social Investment brought in bringing down the Aparthied regime in South Africa as more and more individuals, pensions funds and finally municipalities in the US stopped doing business with those who did business in South Africa. Over the past 20 years SI has grown as an industry with many types of mutual funds and strategies for SI. Some dont like to invest in munitions or cigarette manufactories (negative investment). Others like to encourage the positive behaviour of companies by investing in them (positive investment). Levi's with their support for employee benefits extended to marrieds as well as 'partners' or those that like Whole Foods for their policy of giving 5% of profits to not-for-profit organizations are companies that receive positive SI as do many others.

Now the news is that BB&T bank out of North Carolina, but a large regional bank, has decided that it will not lend funds to developers who depend on eminent domain for their projects. Eminent domain used to be used to re-vitalize dormant areas of blighted downtowns but more and more recently has been used as just another means for special interest group manipulation of local government (and a means for consolidating and flexing power by local government) not for helping the poor but for helping the rich. Kudos to BB&T for this bold move.