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Speaking Up for Shareholders with Chris Meyer

FaithFi: Faith & Finance | May 23, 2024


Show Notes

From Jeremiah 29:7, we know God's people should seek the welfare of the places and people around them. But is seeking the welfare of our community something Christians can pursue by means of investing choices?

Today, we speak with an investment manager who has been "seeking the welfare of cities" all over America and the world through his advocacy work with corporations. As we will hear today, investors can influence decisions made behind closed doors by corporations. Chris Meyer joins us today to examine how this advocacy works.

Chris Meyer is the Manager of Stewardship Investing Research and Advocacy for Praxis Mutual Funds®, an underwriter of Faith & Finance

What is shareholder advocacy, and how are you currently doing it with Praxis?

At Praxis, they use seven different impact strategies to make a difference through investments. One of them is shareholder advocacy, which they also call corporate engagement. It harnesses the power of ownership to create change by using voting stock rights and privileges. 

This can take the form of writing letters, filing shareholder proposals, and dialogue with company management, which is the most effective form of engagement. Their advocacy program aims to build relationships with companies and help them improve their policies and performance, rather than chastising or embarrassing them.

What’s the recipe for real, lasting change in how these companies operate?

Meaningful change always takes time. When they start an engagement with a company, their outlook for achieving goals is typically in terms of years, not weeks or months. Part of that is spent on building a solid foundation because they need to understand the issues we work on deeply. 

So they familiarize themselves with the necessary information to speak intelligently and purposefully when they engage the company. And that takes, of course, a lot of preparation. 

They also seek to build trusting relationships with the companies they engage with. This comes over many minor and significant interactions with company leaders. Trust, as we know, is usually earned and not given, and so that takes time as well. However, companies typically come to understand that Praxis is approaching them in good faith and that we're invested in their success, not just our own; an overarching goal they have for every engagement is to reach mutually beneficial outcomes. 

So, for instance, if a power company is able to reduce its air and water pollution substantially, it's excellent for creation. The company is also more efficient in its operations and better positioned to compete against its peers. And its reputation can benefit as well. In the long term, that's better for shareholders, the company, and the communities where it operates.

How do you stay motivated when change seems to come so slowly?

Recognizing incremental changes along the way, even small ones, is crucial as these can facilitate future progress. As individuals, we are not responsible for solving all the world's problems alone or righting all wrongs. The mission is to work toward creation's wholeness with the time and resources available while honoring the progress made step by step. This long-term perspective can help us persevere even when change does not happen as quickly as desired.

On Today’s Program, Rob Answers Listener Questions:

  • Is there any way I could make an extra $400 per month to help support my wife and me until her disability is reapproved, which is expected to take up to nine months? My job in the restaurant industry doesn't provide stable hours, so I wanted to know if there were any other options to increase our income temporarily during this challenging time.
  • Should start taking my Social Security benefits at age 67 or wait until age 70? I recently applied for Social Security but haven't received a decision yet. I want to put the lump sum retroactive payment and my monthly benefits toward paying my $87,000 mortgage. According to a mortgage calculator, I could pay it off within two years if I do this. However, my nephew thinks I should wait until I am 70 for higher monthly benefits. I didn't fully understand his perspective, so I wanted your help in explaining the pros and cons of each approach.
  • Do I need to pay tithes based on the interest I am earning from a CD that I have invested in through my financial advisor? Rather than taking the interest payments, I have been reinvesting them, so I would like to know if I should be tithing on that interest income even though I have not actually received the money since it has been reinvested back into the CD.

Resources Mentioned:

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