03 May Complaining about the big Corps – then investing in their stocks
I was recently engaged in a conversation with a wealthy retiree about the state of the planet. His point was pretty clear. Humans have ruined our natural eco system, and we can blame the big corporations and the governments of the world for getting us to a place that could be disastrously irreversible.
Uh-ha. My exact miserable thoughts some days…
What dawned on me post chat is that this friend has often boasted that he’s played it smart in his financial life and always invested in large companies on the stock exchange, which now completely funds his comfortable lifestyle.
This prompted me to wonder, can we campaign for the environment if our personal money is tied up for financial gain with the very companies that are responsible for its demise?
Despite the fact that polls show that most Americans believe in climate change and 48% of them believe that climate change is a real global threat, still 53% of all US citizens still have investments in the stock market.
While not all public companies are evil and destructive (think Mr. Burns from the Simpsons oozing radioactive waste into the little town of Springfield), you can bet your bottom dollar that ALL public companies are for profit, which means their number one goal is to increase their profits on an annual basis for their shareholders – and they’ll do this at any cost.
Take BHP Billiton for example. It is the world’s largest mining company measured by 2015 market values and Australia’s fourth largest company (by revenue), formerly the largest.
As far as investment goes, the stock price has grown from $113 in 1999 to $1175 in current day price. Not a bad investment if you had the foresight 20 years ago, which would have given you a 1000% return today.
HOWEVER, would you be comfortable knowing that the money you invested was partly responsible for Brazil’s biggest environmental disaster in 2016? Or perhaps disrupted the lives of 50,000 people in Papua New Guinea between 1984 and 2013 when the discharge of about two billion tonnes of untreated mining waste caused severe harm to the environment along 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) of the Ok Tedi River and the Fly River?
Eek. It’s a bit of a gut wrenching thought.
Whatever your investment portfolio boasts, perhaps it is time to think about where we are all putting our money. Do some research. Can you opt into funding renewable resources instead? Education? Recycling? Responsible Banking? Perhaps switching your retirement savings to an “ethical super” fund might be the way to go?
The things we invest in now, are the things that will shape our future. For better or worse.
Take a moment to wonder, what is your hard earned dollar funding?