Click below to listen to Episode 2 – What Is Impact Investing?
Episode 2: Biblically Responsible Investing – A Subset of Impact Investing
In this episode, we cover Biblically responsible investing, a subset of impact investing.
Impact investing refers to investments “made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return.” The basic goal of impact investing is to help reduce the negative effects of business activity on the social environment, some look at it as a form of philanthropy.
Biblically responsible investing (BRI) is a subset of impact investing (also known by faith based investing). How does it fit under this umbrella? BRI seeks to align itself with companies supporting conservative agendas. BRI avoids buying publicly traded companies directly, or indirectly through a mutual fund or separate account manager, that are known to violate Biblical principles.
Biblically responsible investing is an ideal strategy for those families and individuals who want their investments to be an extension of their lifestyle and how they choose to worship our Lord and Savior. Do your investments reflect your Christian values? We are hearing from people all the time who are interested in this but don’t know how to get started.
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HOSTED BY: Bob Barber, CWS®, CKA® and Mary Jo Lyons, CFP®, CKA®
Mentioned In This Episode
Christian Financial Advisors
Bob Barber, CWS®, CKA®
Mary Jo Lyons, CFP®, CKA®
The Timothy Plan
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Bob: Welcome to Christian Financial Perspectives, a weekly podcast where we talk about ways to integrate your faith with your finances. This is Bob Barber.
Mary Jo: And I’m Mary Jo Lyons.
Bob: Are you ready to learn how to apply biblical wisdom to everyday financial decisions?
Mary Jo: Join us as we look at integrating your faith with your finances. If it’s your first time listening, welcome to our podcast, and if you’re a returning listener, welcome back.
Bob: Well, hello Mary Jo.
Mary Jo: Hi Bob. How’s your day going?
Bob: Well, I’m very excited about a topic today that we’re going to be talking about because as you know, I’m one of the pioneers of it and this is just going to be a lot of fun cause it’s something that’s dear to my heart.
Mary Jo: Well that’s great and I know that you’ve been dying to kind of get started on this one. In today’s episode of Christian Financial Perspectives, we’re going to discuss biblically responsible investing, but how it fits under the broader umbrella of impact investing. So let’s get started. You know, one of the things about financial services is we are guilty of talking in jargon, in industry jargon, and I know that gets in the way of our dialogue with clients a lot of times. So, we hope to be able to simplify that and take the mystery out of money. So one of the things to get started with when we talk about biblically responsible investing and impact investing, I thought it would be helpful if we defined what that is for our listeners. So I looked it up on Wikipedia and impact investing refers to “investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial, social, or environmental impact alongside a financial return”. So this is important for people that want to marry their money with their value system, if you will. So what better way to fit in the biblically responsible investing? I know they go even farther on Investopedia. So what do they say there?
Bob: The definition on Investopedia is impact investing is “investing that aims to generate specific beneficial, social, or environmental effects in addition to financial gain”. Here’s the definition. “Impact investing is a subset of socially responsible investing. But while the definition of socially responsible investing encompasses avoidance of harm, impact investing actively seeks to make a positive impact by investing, for example, in nonprofits that benefit the community or in clean technology enterprises”. Now, I think I got all that. That’s a little confusing.
Mary Jo: Okay, well, to just make it more simple. The basic goal of impact investing is to help reduce the negative effects of business activity on the social environment and some look at it as almost a form of philanthropy.
Bob: All right, so you’ve got this other thing in here. You call it ESG now explain what ESG means to our audience. You said we were going to get it into financial jargon and we were doing it right now.
Mary Jo: Well, we’re taking the mystery out of it, so I think you got to start with that with kind of defining. Our listeners are hearing these labels out in today’s press. You know, they’re hearing terms thrown around – socially responsible investing, impact investing, but they don’t know what all this means. So I’ve thought we would start with just defining it, and ESG is, again, under the umbrella of impact investing in its environmental and social governments. And they want to feel good about the companies they’re investing in. So, there’s growing evidence that suggests that when investing in the environmental and social governance factors, when you integrate that with your investment analysis, then you’re able to find companies that are poised to withstand the test of time. These factors have proven to present various types of risks to investors that they’re able to avoid. Does that make sense?
Bob: It kind of makes sense. I just start thinking about it. As a pioneer of biblically responsible investing and where it all stemmed from, and really I never even thought of it this way. Things are changing and times are changing. Back when I was thinking about biblically responsible investing, I didn’t even know how it came about, except from the fact that when the Southern Baptist Convention came out and said, we don’t want our members going to a well known amusement park because it was sponsoring gay day, which was considered an anti family agenda. And from that has how I got interested in biblically responsible investing because then I said, well, what am I investing in and what companies am I investing in that could be involved in supporting agendas that could be violating biblical principles? And that took me down this path. And then I started realizing, not even ever thinking about it, that socially responsible investing has been around for years. Making sense to you?
Mary Jo: Exactly. And so it’s kind of the broader umbrella if you will. And the faith based or biblically responsible investing just fits underneath that category. BRI, which is biblically responsible investing, is also known as faith based investing. And again, it seeks to align itself with companies supporting conservative agendas. And that’s just what you said that resonated so well with you so long ago, biblically responsible investing. It avoids buying publicly traded companies, directly or indirectly, through a mutual fund that are known to violate biblical principles. We do this through a screening process, so why don’t you talk a little bit about that, Bob, and what the screening process looks like.
Bob: We have a screening process, and I want to get back to the beginning. In the beginning, back in like 19 I think it was about 1994, 1995. It’s when I started finding out about this. The screening process we use today is called the eValueator. It’s a computer program that goes through and looks at all the companies and what they might be involved in, but I still remember back then how was I going to find out what all these companies were involved in, and there was a guy named Scott Fehrenbacher out of Seattle, Washington that was coming up with this program that was looking at companies and basically looking at several agendas like abortion, pornography, anti-family values, domestic partner benefits, gambling, tobacco, alcohol. Over time, he started introducing this concept and then a mutual fund family was founded off of that concept called The Timothy Plan. The Timothy Plan was really the very first mutual fund family in America that said we’re going to be biblically responsible. Back then, they called it morally responsible, but because morals in our country have such a wide range – where they shouldn’t, they need to be based on the Bible – but morality over the years it was changed from morally responsible to biblically responsible for the very fact that morality is being defined as whatever we want it to be. But the Bible was very clear what is right and wrong. So the program eValueator is what we use and we can enter in any mutual fund, ETF, even an individual stock, and it goes through and finds what the companies may be involved in and if they’re involved in those agendas that violate biblical principles, then we just steer clear of those companies and look for companies that are not in violation, that are making a good profit, and are doing good things for our society versus tearing it down.
Mary Jo: Well, exactly. One of the things to kind of make it simple. We are basically screening out companies that are harmful to society based on biblical foundations. Would it be safe to say that some of the screens that they are using now for the biblically responsible are some of the same screens that originated with the socially responsible movement?
Bob: Yes and no. Socially responsible investing will actually look for companies that are very involved in the LGBT or look for companies that may be giving to Planned Parenthood. So there’s really two different sides. The socially responsible investing side is more about the liberal agenda, where the biblically responsible investing side is more of a conservative agenda. I call the socially responsible funds, the funds for the Democrats and I call the biblically responsible funds the funds for the conservative Republicans. I mean, I know that you shouldn’t do that, but really that’s where it has evolved and they’re that far apart. Christians, many times, think they’re doing the right thing by investing in socially responsible funds. They’re really actually supporting many of the agendas that violate biblical principles and violate the moral fiber of what they believe in
Mary Jo: And we take it even a step further with the other issues that are also impacting the environment, if you will. Socially responsible screens may avoid energy companies all together while the biblically responsible screens allow for investment in natural resources such as energy and timber and mining companies, but they’re looking for companies that demonstrate sustainable harvesting practices and good stewardship of the earth. So the socially responsible screening basically adds another layer of due diligence, but then BRI adds even another layer. They’re cousins. They’re similar, but they also, as you described, are very different by nature, so we definitely wanted to point that out. One of the things that I have understood is that there’s basically 60 activities that have been screened out when looking at the biblical standards. You want to talk about that in a little more detail, Bob?
Bob: Well, I’m not sure what you mean by activities. The activities that we’ve been talking about already, correct? What you mean is the gambling, tobacco, alcohol, pornography, sporting agendas that would violate biblical principles like the LGBT, but also we’ve added human slavery to that as another agenda. So there’s about seven to eight main ones and then they’ll go deeper off of those.
Mary Jo: You know, I’ve heard those referred to as “sin stocks”. Is that a term that you’ve heard in your years as you’ve supported the biblically responsible movement?
Bob: Yes, it is. I have heard that because actually there are sin stock mutual funds that you can invest in if you want to, and I can’t imagine wanting to do that to profit from immoral agendas, but there’s sin stock mutual funds and this is just exactly the opposite of it.
Mary Jo: Our clients tell us all the time that they feel good about supporting companies that are a blessing to our communities, as well as to Christian families. That makes them feel good while they’re doing well with their money at the same time, if that makes sense.
Bob: It does. And you know what’s interesting is that we have seen, over the years, companies that passed our biblically responsible screens and then all of a sudden the company’s got involved in something that went in direct violation of it. We’ve watched those companies as they become involved in those immoral agendas – just kind of like crossing the line – and once they cross the line, it’s a slippery slope and they start going down that slippery slope. And we’ve seen it impact them in huge, financial ways. Not to say that it’s always going to, but it has many, many times in the past. Do you understand what I mean when I say that?
Mary Jo: Yes. I’ve always kind of said when there’s smoke, there’s fire. Not that that’s an exact parallel to your comment, but when you start going down the wrong path, I mean we’ve seen all in our personal lives and in our past. And you know, I think of it when we talk about our kids hanging out with the wrong kids, if you will. And then pretty soon, they’re around a crowd that you really don’t want them involved with. To take that to your investing portfolio is just another way to ensure that you’re following along with your core values and beliefs. And that’s what we’re looking for.
Bob: And you know what’s so exciting about this in our industry is to see how biblically responsible investing started with just one mutual fund family and how now there’s many mutual fund families to pick from. There is even biblically responsible ETFs now, electronic traded funds available, and we’ve watched the cost of the funds drop dramatically. There’s institutional shares that we combine now along with that. Because of the great computer technology, we can build individual stock portfolios. There’s no reason today to not be biblically responsible investing more so than ever in the history of biblically responsible investing. That still is kind of a new movement. I mean it’s over 20 years old, but when you think about socially responsible investing that started 50-60 years ago, BRI is catching on quickly. Now remember when we say biblically responsible investing, I say BRI. I know that’s a term we use a lot in our industry now. I know that many of our listeners have never heard that term, BRI. But when you hear that that means biblically responsible investing. The bottom line is you don’t have to give up your Christian convictions to be investing in a good, well-rounded portfolio. You’re going to get large cap value, you’re gonna get small cap growth, you’re going to get international, you’re going to get bond portfolios. All the different types of investments available. You could build a diversified model today that’s biblically responsible.
Mary Jo: We’ve come so far, and now that just shows you what a demand there is for this out there that they keep coming out with new ways to serve this. It is a bit of a niche market, but it’s a much more mainstream market than it ever has been in the past. You know, they used to refer to this as feel good investing, but you know, I say what’s wrong with that? It’s our money. And if you want to control how it’s invested, why shouldn’t you be able to do that? If you boil it down, I don’t think that anyone wants to support companies that do harm to our environment, that violate human rights, or support immoral business practices. That just doesn’t feel right, and we want to avoid that. Who wouldn’t? This practice, it’s not just for millennials and the younger generation, it’s for all Christians.
Bob: Well, it’s all about integrating your faith with your finances. That’s what we talk about. That’s what this show is about. It’s integrating your faith with your finances, and if we really believe that God owns it all, I know you and I believe that and we talk about that on the show through past shows. We’ve talked about what God’s word says about money, and as we go forward, we believe in the biblical principle that it belongs to God and we are managers of it and we want to be good stewards with it. This is where biblically responsible investing falls. It falls under that category of if you really believe God owns it all and you know that he does and you want to make a difference in how you’re investing, this is a way to do it.
Mary Jo: And you know Bob, biblically responsible investing, it’s an ideal strategy for families and individuals who want their investments to be an extension of their lifestyle. It is based in biblical scriptures in more than one way. And for those of us who choose to worship our Lord and Savior, we want to do it with our money as well. So I’m going to take a cue from the Bible in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” So why shouldn’t we be doing that with our wealth as we grow it?
Bob: Amen. Mary Jo, I 100% agree with you and I want to challenge those that are listening today to find out more about biblically responsible investing. You can do that by going to our website for this podcast, christianfinancialpodcast.com. Also, on our website per Christian Financial Advisors, which is who we work for. There is a area there called the Education Center and you can go on the Education Center, a drop down that goes to Christian Mutual Funds, and we can put a link to that from the Christian financial podcast website so that you can go directly to that and see all of the available mutual funds to you.
Mary Jo: Well, before we wrap up, Bob, one of the things that I did want to point out is I think that some investors may be concerned that in order to support the biblically responsible investment strategies, they may give up something in the way of performance. Can you speak to that a little bit?
Bob: Well, yeah, I can and you may, you may give up some in the way of performance, but that has not been proven. The performance levels of BRI are right there with the performance levels of socially responsible, as well as a portfolio that’s not responsible at all in anything, but even if you do have to give up 1% or 2% of the portfolio, do you believe that God would honor that in maybe other areas of your life? Sometimes, being obedient calls for a little bit of sacrifice. I’m not saying you have to sacrifice, but I want to challenge you to be willing to do that. Mary Jo, if I made a 7% return versus an 8.5% return, but I knew that the 7% return went with my convictions and I knew that it was honoring our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I’m willing to go with a lower return. Not that I have to, but I’m willing to.
Mary Jo: I think that most Christians want their investments to reflect their Christian values. At least that’s what we’re hearing from our clients all the time.
Mary Jo: You’ve been listening to Christian Financial Perspectives. Join us next week as we explore more about how to apply biblical wisdom to your financial situations.
Bob: To make sure you don’t miss any of our podcasts, you can subscribe to Christian Financial Perspectives on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher. To learn more about integrating your faith with your finances, visit out website at ciswealth.com or call 830-609-6986.
Mary Jo: That’s all for now until next week.
Comments from today’s show are for informational purposes only and not to be considered investment advice or recommendations to buy or sell any company that may have been mentioned or discussed. The opinions expressed are solely those of the hosts, Bob Barber and Mary Jo Lyons. Bob and Mary Jo do not provide tax advice and encourage you to seek guidance from a tax professional. Investment advisory services offered through Christian Investment Advisors Inc. DBA Christian Financial Advisors, a registered investment advisor.