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AFSC announces broad socially responsible investment policy

Quaker organization strengthens and expands divestment from prisons, militarism, border industry, apartheid, and environmental devastation

Photo: / AFSC

PHILADELPHIA (June 24, 2021) The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a Quaker nonprofit that has been working for peace and justice for over a century – announced that it has expanded its socially responsible investment policy. The new policy implements an innovative invest/divest framework – taking into account not just the products of a firm but also the impact of the firm’s activities on a community. The updated policy makes AFSC the first institution with a comprehensive immigrant justice investment policy; with a decision to divest from the prison industrial complex as a whole, not just from private prison companies; and with a policy that addresses Israeli apartheid. The policy guides AFSC’s approximately $240 million investment portfolio.

“AFSC’s investment philosophy is to invest responsibly in alignment with our mission as well as with the Religious Society of Friends’ beliefs and testimonies, which include peace, simplicity, integrity, and justice,” said Joyce Ajlouny, General Secretary of AFSC. “An ethical investment policy does not harm returns; in our experience, socially responsible investing has created more competitive and sustainable returns over the long run. We have seen that investing in peace works, and we hope AFSC can serve as a model for others who want their investment portfolios to be aligned with their values.”

AFSC’s previous investment policy already imposed a product-based exclusion of weapon companies, military contractors, fossil fuel companies, and other industries commonly avoided by socially responsible investors. The new human rights screens focus on industries supporting mass incarceration and detention; security, defense, and military industries, including border security, militarized policing, and mass surveillance; and violations of international law and human rights as part of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Syrian land and Israeli apartheid.

The implementation of the policy will be guided in part by AFSC’s Investigate database, which allows investors to scan their stock portfolios and mutual funds to see if they are invested in companies that are involved in state violence. The database lists over 200 company and industry profiles. The information is drawn from many sources, including information published by other independent research initiatives and government agencies, legal documents, academic research, media reports, and corporate documents including annual reports and Security and Exchange Commission filings.

“We want to invest in companies that, in turn, invest in people’s wellbeing, our communities’ prosperity, and our planet’s future,” said Dov Baum, AFSC’s Director of Economic Activism.  “I hope that divestment from border industries, from Israeli apartheid, from mass incarceration and mass surveillance, will be adopted by more and more investors of conscience.”

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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social systems.