As bond funds and foreign debt are becoming more accessible to the average-Joe investor, the fixed income industry has overlooked some fundamental social considerations. In many cases, fixed income is seen as a more passive alternative when compared to equity markets. Upon further inspection, it becomes clear that a lack of social due diligence regarding your bond portfolio can lead to the same social pitfalls as a hastily selected stock portfolio.
In my opinion, there are two main mistakes that even the sincerest investor could make when selecting bonds. Fortunately, there are some valuable resources available to help prevent oversight. The following examine the social pitfalls and then looks at practical solutions for every-day investors:
It is important to be wary of corporate debt that may support firms that leverage questionable labor practices. This is most prevalent in unregulated emerging economies where astronomical GDP growth is overshadowing labor issues that include high risk activities and child labor. Today, the returns coming from developing economies can cloud even the most grounded fund manager’s judgment.
Many international organizations and think-tanks are striving to keep pace with developing economies by creating new and updated labor indices to assist investors with ethical decision making. I have aggregated some of the leading labor indices and databases for reference:
Emerging Sovereign Debt:
The second pitfall looks at emerging sovereign debt and examines how government policies affect humanitarian issues within their state. It is important to realize that taking on the debt of emerging counties indirectly supports their human rights policies and foreign policies. As responsible investors, we need to be aware of a nation’s humanitarian track record before picking up foreign treasuries or similar types of debt. Listed below are some useful resources to assist in the social due diligence process:
I’m currently aggregating a list of my 10 favorite socially responsible funds and portfolio managers. I’m hoping to get these posted soon. These two top-ten lists will be a great way to augment the social and political indexes listed in this post.
Copyright © 2008 David van der Roest