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Steve Novick Wants A Socially Responsible Investing Policy For City Money

OPB | Aug. 21, 2014 12:15 p.m. | Updated: Aug. 21, 2014 1:28 p.m.

Andrew Magill via Flickr, Creative Commons

A few months ago, the City of Portland began removing Walmart from the city’s investment portfolio. City Commissioner Steve Novick hopes that this is just one step on the path towards creating a socially responsible investment policy for all of the city’s corporate bond purchases. He outlined his ideal criteria for socially responsible investing in a blog post in September of last year:

Under the new policy, we would examine corporations that meet our stringent financial criteria for investment to see how they fare on certain other criteria. We would take note of abusive labor practices. We would ask if the company has conducted activities that are damaging to human health or the environment. We would determine whether the corporation has a history of generally unethical behavior – e.g., engaging in bribery or deceptive marketing practices. We would ask if the company has engaged in extreme forms of tax avoidance. Finally, we would ask whether the company wields such extraordinary market power that they can use, and have used, that power in a way that disrupts normal competitive market forces.

Novick’s idea has some critics. The Oregonian editorial board takes issue with it, pointing out that “Since the city gets its money mostly from taxpayers, it would be applying a social-investing screen to other people’s money. And, even in Portland, not all taxpayers think alike.” The city’s Investment Advisory Committee has also raised concerns about creating a “do not buy” list.

How would you like to see the city make decisions about its investments?

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