During the 2017 Chapter, the highest authority in the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy that is convened every six years to determine priorities and responds to changing needs, the Sisters of Mercy were challenged to listen more intently to the cries of those who have been made poor and to the cries of Earth. This call resulted in the Chapter 2017 Recommitment, which, in part, states:
We hear the call of our suffering world. The impoverishment of peoples, the devastation of Earth and oppressive social norms and systems call us at this moment to act….To intensify our efforts to align our investments with our values and, especially now, to pursue education and action against practices of extractive industries that are destroying people, communities and Earth.
The Sisters of Mercy define “extractivism” as the process of extracting raw materials (such as minerals, metals, oil, gas and coal) from Earth in ways that irreparably destroy vital ecosystems, land and water, and severely impact air quality. This process devastates communities and cultures; displaces people from their homes and land; and escalates public health crises with new diseases and illnesses – all of which deepen the suffering of people who are impoverished and vulnerable.
Since the Chapter 2017 Recommitment, Mercy Investment Services has responded to the Sisters of Mercy’s call to “intensify our efforts to align our investments with our values.” In addition to ongoing discernment within Mercy Investment Services, staff and governance members witnessed and listened to the stories of those most impacted by extractives both on the ground and through a theological reflection process alongside the Sisters of Mercy.
Historically, Mercy Investment Services has excluded certain companies from its investment portfolio including tobacco, abortifacients, weapons, stem cells, pornography, thermal coal and oil sands and food commodities. Now, the Board of Directors has approved avoiding extractives and other companies whose business practices contradict Mercy values in our portfolio. Mercy Investment Services recently amended our policy in order to limit investments in oil, gas and mining producers and, given our deep concern for human rights, we’ve also excluded for-profit prisons from the portfolio.
Mercy has actively engaged companies in these sectors for several years because we believe that shareholder engagement is an essential advocacy strategy and an effective way to center the voices of impacted communities. We will continue our long-standing practice of holding minimal shares for the purpose of advocacy if we choose to engage a company in one of these sectors. In addition to engagement, we have prioritized and expanded our impact investing for alternatives and solutions to extractivism through Mercy Partnership Fund and the Environmental Solutions Fund. Mercy Investments will continue intensifying our efforts to align our portfolio with the mission and values of the Sisters of Mercy through comprehensive socially responsible investing.