War: A Minefield for Ethical Investors

Guest Blog by David Israelson
Oct 15, 2014 5:00 PM ET
Campaign: CSR Blogs


War! What is it good for? 

Absolutely nothing … except, some say, profit opportunities.

Investing in “sin” companies – weapons makers, Big Oil, polluters, tobacco, gambling firms and the like – is likely a vexing issue for most DIYers. Can investors live with themselves if they put money into companies that are known for questionable or harmful practices?

It’s an ethical minefield, no pun intended.

Consider these moral quagmires:

– Investing in weapons companies may be unpalatable to many DIY investors, but lots of companies make other beneficial products. “Think of United Technologies [aerospace and building as well as defence] and Boeing,” says Kurt Rosentreter, a financial adviser at Manulife Securities who counsels DIYers. “Some of the top stock investments in the world have long been involved in defence and other industries.”

– The law of unintended consequences can apply. For example, if one invested in defence during the U.S.-led Iraq War in 2003, bear in mind that many of the weapons left behind are now in the hands of the terror-bent Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

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