Genocide-free Investing

Despite the extensive publicity from the many years of the ongoing government sponsored genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan, millions of people are unknowingly and inadvertently investing in the companies that are funding these extreme human rights abuses. Few ordinary investors  realize that when they entrust their personal savings to mutual fund companies and other investment firms, those firms often invest their savings in a small number of foreign oil companies that help to fund this genocide in Sudan.

Once they become aware, the vast majority of Americans are strongly opposed to being financially connected to genocide. Studies done in 2010 and 2007 by KRC Research highlight the very strong support by the American public for genocide-free investing.

  • 84% of respondents say they will withdraw their investments from American companies that do business with companies that directly or indirectly support genocide.
  • 88% would like their mutual funds to be genocide-free.
  • 95% of those earning $50,000 or more would like their mutual funds to be genocide-free.
  • 82% say they would advise friends, family and co-workers against buying products or services, or investing in American companies that invest in a foreign company that directly or indirectly provides revenue to a government that perpetrates genocide.

Why We Need to Change the Status Quo

Most Americans are not aware that their investments may have ties to genocide. While a minority of individual investors might choose to knowingly invest in such companies, the majority of investors should not have that choice made for them by their investment firms without their knowledge and against their preferences.

Presently, even the most motivated and enlightened investors face multiple challenges when attempting to avoid investments tied to genocide. Few people research the details of their mutual funds or other investments; they simply trust their investment company to make sound choices on their behalf. Individual investors who do attempt this research discover that it is a daunting task to determine which companies have ties to genocide, so that they can avoid those companies. Further complicating the task are the facts that even “recent” reports of a company or fund’s portfolio holdings are likely to be months out of date and individuals have no assurance that their mutual fund managers will not invest in the problem companies in the future. In the case of 401k investments, individuals are limited by the number of funds offered in their 401k plan and may have no good options. When available, investors might choose Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds, but these are not offered by many 401k plans and may be more limited in the diversity of their offerings. Lastly, investors who would like to choose low-priced index funds are severely limited, since the international and emerging markets indices often include even the worst offending companies.

Only if management makes a commitment to genocide-free investing and implements supporting procedures can investors be confident that they are not inadvertently complicit in supporting genocide and crimes against humanity.

Financial institutions, by instituting a simple investment policy, would exert their considerable influence to encourage companies to demonstrate good records regarding the most severe human rights problems.