Written by Barb Powell
A new investment fund option for the 22,000 UCC Pension Boards members is coming Nov. 2 that will help United Church of Christ investors meet their retirement goals while investing in the well-being of the planet.
The new fund option, the Northern Trust Global Sustainability Index Fund (GSIF), is based not only on financial returns, but also on future social returns, among them the environment, human rights, and ethical management of companies, said the Rev. Richard E. Walters, the Pension Boards’ director of corporate social responsibility. It is rooted in the MSCI World ESG Index, which means it has enhanced environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria.
The new fund is “a way for people to invest in something that is with companies that do not invest in areas [our members] would prefer not to invest in,” said Walters.
A registered mutual fund, the GSIF was evaluated by Pension Boards investment staff and the Investment Committee of its Board of Trustees prior to the Board approving it this past June, said the Rev. Martha M. Cruz, director of public relations and communications for the Pension Boards.
The fund will be an additional equity fund investment option for members, who already can invest all or part of their accumulation accounts in standard bond, balanced, and equity funds, plus Target Annuitization Date funds. It was selected in response to various UCC General Synod resolutions, dating back to 2005, calling on the Pension Boards to invest in socially responsible funds, said Walters.
Most recently, the General Synod in 2013 called upon the Pension Boards to find an investment option sensitive to environmental issues, including climate change. Rather than try to develop a myriad of small, issue-oriented fund options, which would be impractical, Walters said the GSIF is a way to more broadly address societal issues through investing.
“We anticipate adding enhancements as we learn more about the fund,” Walters added. “We started with a basic social index, the MSCI Objective Index. As we get experience and find out how it performs, we might be able to tweak it and make it even more specific to issues the United Church of Christ cares about.”
The Pension Boards is offering the GSIF in order to provide a retirement investment option sensitive to ESG factors with long-term sustainability and, according to Cruz, to “respond covenantally and faithfully to the prophetic voice of the United Church of Christ, within the bounds of the duty and loyalty to plan members.”