First Parish Cambridge, UU—Congregation Achieves Success with Shareholder Advocacy
Paul Morgan, Investment Committee
First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist (UU) made an immediate splash last fall in the socially responsible investing movement weeks after transferring its endowment assets to Walden Asset Management, a socially responsible investment firm in Boston. The congregation's first co-filing of a shareholder resolution with other concerned investors last November immediately prompted leading medical device producer Stryker Corporation to amend its hiring policy to explicitly ban discrimination in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation. The success was perhaps most significant as a rare example of a UU congregation acting as a public filer of a resolution, rather than having the socially responsible management company vote shares or file on their behalf but remain anonymous.
While this was positive step for civil rights, it also brings Stryker closer to basic principles of smart capitalism. Paul J. Morgan, chair of the congregation's Board of Investments, put it this way: "We are firm believers in equal opportunity and the power of markets. The efficiency and effectiveness of the economy and individual organizations depend on the ability of individuals to achieve career and personal success based upon their individual merit, fitness to the organization, capability, work ethic and personal choices. As investors we are the owners of companies, and we have a right to expect management to act in our interest; that's why we pay them. To the extent that the most qualified applicant for a position might be of a minority sexual orientation, not hiring that person would be a drag on profits and expose the company to lawsuits. Stryker agreed with us. We will continue to press less enlightened corporations to see the light and urge other congregations to make the switch to proactive socially responsible investing."
Note: Community Church of New York, UU was also a co-filer on this resolution. Community Church has been the lone UU congregation engaged in shareowner advocacy. Now First Parish Cambridge has joined the effort. Congratulations to both congregations!