At Beacon Wealth Consultants, we are passionate about investing in funds and businesses that value human life. This month our Chief Investment Officer Hillary Sunderland, CFA addresses our screening approach to this issue. Stay tuned until the end to hear an update our Clean Water Well Project! (Spoiler alert – It’s funded!)
Full transcript below.
Hi, my name is Hillary Sunderland and I’m the Chief Investment Officer of Beacon Wealth Consultants and this is your October 2021 update.
According to the Investment Company Institute, as of the end of 2020, there were more than 106 million people in the United States using U.S. registered funds to invest nearly $30 trillion in assets. And these 106 million people, which includes you, have entrusted an immense amount of capital to these asset managers, and they decide which businesses you are investing in. In order for you to make money, they need to invest in businesses that will attract more customers, businesses that will grow and will prosper. And when this occurs, you will be rewarded because as a shareholder, you are legally part owner of the companies in which you invest and you reap the benefits of a business’ success.
So that begs the question: Should your sole focus be on maximizing your financial return? And what happens if you don’t agree with how the profits were made or with what the business is doing with some of your profits?
Well, almost 500 years ago, Martin Luther wrote the following concerning maximizing profit and trade. He said,
“Among themselves, the merchants have a common rule, which is their chief maxim. ‘I care nothing about my neighbor. So long as I have my profit and satisfy my greed, of what concern is it to me, if it injures my neighbor in ten ways at once? There, you see how shamelessly this maxim flies squarely in the face, not only of Christian Love, but also of natural law. How can it be without sin when such injustice is the chief maxim and the rule of the whole business?”
Well, I think one can easily argue that one of the greatest injustices in our world today is abortions. Now abortions are counted as a health statistic, not as a death. So you won’t find a comprehensive chart showing this, but if you were to Google the leading causes of death, you can find this chart from the World Health Organization.
And it shows the leading causes of death in 2019, with heart disease as number one, accounting for about 9 million deaths. But if abortion were counted as a death, it would have been the leading cause of death in the world by far. It’s estimated that in calendar year 2019 alone, abortion took the lives of over 42 million fearfully and wonderfully made individuals worldwide. And unfortunately that statistic was about the same in calendar year 2020, as well.
As you can probably imagine, abortion is big business. And given our convictions, this is not something that we want to profit from. We believe that while the financial return on investment is important, it’s just as important to consider the social return on investment as well, because how we earn our profits matters deeply. And that is why our portfolios are diligently screened to exclude companies with ties to the abortion industry. I wanted to take some time to walk through what this means for you as an investor with us.
There are five main areas that we target with our exclusionary abortion screen. The first component, and probably the most obvious is that we screen out companies that develop and manufacture drugs used in the abortion process. So, these are known as abortifacients, and we don’t want to profit from selling these drugs. This screen excludes some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies that are common holdings in the most popular mutual funds and passive ETFs.
We also screen out abortion facilities. So some hospitals and clinics, which perform elective abortions for profit are publicly traded companies and we screen out publicly traded companies that are performing abortions for profit.
When it comes to stem cell research, there are a few different ways to go about this. A company can use adult stem cells obtained from body tissue, such as bone marrow, umbilical cord blood or fat cells to conduct research, or a company can choose to conduct embryonic stem cell research, where the embryo is destroyed during stem cell harvesting. We screen out companies involved in the latter per the George W. Bush Human Embryonic Stem Cell Policy of 2001.
Additionally, some companies which are not directly involved in abortions from a business standpoint, choose to use corporate money to promote abortion legislation or to engage in marketing campaigns promoting abortion. We do not think that this is proper stewardship of shareholder dollars and so those companies are screened out as well.
And last in a similar vein, some companies give charitable contributions to organizations such as Planned Parenthood. We screen out companies with corporate sponsored donations to these organizations. However, we do exclude matching donations from the screen, as those are directed by employees of a company they’re not directed by the corporation itself.
So I hope this helps you to understand some of the research that goes into just one of the exclusionary screens that we use.
Overall, at Beacon Wealth, we want you to be proud of the companies that you own when investing with us. So, I also want to touch briefly on the positive impact side as well. Because we respect and value the right to life at all stages, we proactively invest in companies that are working to meet some of society’s greatest needs. So for example, we are investing thematically in companies that are working on cures for cancer, as you’re probably aware of past treatments for cancer, such as chemotherapy and radiation kill or slow the spread of cancer cells, but they often kill or damage other important cells as well and have significant side effects. And so we believe that by investing in companies that are exploring precision oncology, we hope to fund targeted treatment for specific cancers that have, much less in the term of negative side effects. Additionally, we’re investing in companies working on therapies for central nervous system disorders and diseases. Things like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, dementia, multiple sclerosis, and depression.
So instead of investing in life-taking businesses, we prefer to invest in those that are potentially life-giving. Companies that you, as an investor, can be proud to own. And additionally, when you invest with us, part of our corporate profits are donated to the Blue Ridge Women’s Center, a pregnancy center located near our corporate office in Roanoke, Virginia, as well as the Family Foundation of Virginia, which advocates for life at both the state and local level.
So speaking of donations, I did want to provide you with a quick update on our clean water well project. Thank you so much for your generous donations to this worthy cause. As we stated a few months ago, we are matching the gifts for the clean water well, and I’m happy to report that our well is now fully funded. So Unto, the humanitarian arm of Cru, will now pick the location of the well. And within six to nine months, clean water will be flowing and ministry will begin in one of the toughest places on earth. We’ll let know the well’s location once the project is completed because this information is given to us after project completion, due to the persecution that exists in some of these areas.
As always, we thank you for your continued support and confidence in us and please reach out to us with any questions that you may have.
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