Ethical relativity – Comparing standards is tough

So-called “socially responsible” investments are in the eye of the beholder, with social-investing firms often disagreeing about particular stocks, The Wall Street Journal reports.

What’s more, the newspaper says, social-investment firms aren’t always forthcoming about why companies don’t make their lists and their funds.

The Calvert Social Index, for example, does not include Wal-Mart Stores because it sells firearms, John Blanchard Jr., senior vice present of social products and policy for Calvert Group Ltd., told the Journal.

Citizens Funds, on the other hand, doesn’t like the way Wal-Mart treats its employees or the impact it has on small stores in rural communities, and so it keeps the retailer off its proprietary Citizens Index and out of its Citizens Index Fund, the Journal says.

But Kinder, Lydenberg, Domini & Co., however, includes Wal-Mart in its Domini 400 Social Index mirrored by Domini Social Equity. The firm tries to address concerns it has about Wal-Mart through discussions with management and by submitting proxy resolutions, research director Steven D. Lydenberg told the Journal.

Wal-Mart spokesman Jay Allen told the Journal the retailer isn’t perfect but is a good corporate citizen.

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