An American firm has just introduced the first-ever screening tool to let investors build portfolios free of companies that support and profit from the genocide in Sudan. Foliofn Investments, a service company that assists investors, financial advisors, and financial institutions, came up with the innovation it launched in May of this year to help customers automatically screen out companies on the Genocide Intervention Network's "highest offenders" list of firms that operate or trade in Sudan and thereby, according to the network, share complicity in marginalizing portions of the country's local population. The Genocide-Free Stock Screening Tool was an innovation of Foliofn's vice president of marketing and communications, Mary Gotschall. She says she helped the company come up with the idea after unexpectedly being inspired by an advertisement on American television.
"I just happened to see an ad on cable TV. I don't know if you saw it. It was running last December. It was a pro bono ad and basically, you had this couple being advised by a financial adviser and the financial adviser said, 'Listen, you're making a killing on genocide,' and the woman's mouth dropped and then it cut to the screen that said 'Are you profiting from genocide? Find out. Visit Sudan Divestment Task Force.' And that's what prompted me to come up with this idea of 'Hey, we could do a screen, a genocide screen'," she said.
The ad Gotschall was watching, which instigated her innovation, was In fact, promoting another 21st century funding tool inspiration developed by the Sudan Divestment Task Force (SDTF) and the Genocide Intervention Network (GI-NET) to screen and identify mutual funds that invest in companies with Sudanese commercial ties. Individuals who access the mutual fund tool from the task force's internet web site (http://www.sudandivestment.org/screener.asp) on their personal computers simply type in the name of their fund, press the "Search" button, and are instantly able to determine that fund's record of taking part or refraining from profiting from involvement with the Khartoum government and agents that wage war against local Sudanese populations.
In contrast with mutual funds, which are diversified collections of stocks managed by a financial adviser, folios, which can be managed either by an individual owner or an investment advisor, are not registered with the US government. Gotschall says Folio's investment platform lends itself to this same type of screening capability as the Task Force's mutual fund screening tool.
"I think the response has been very positive thus far, and it is something we are going to be monitoring on an ongoing basis. I just think that socially responsible investing is a very important area within the investment industry and that our platform at Foliofn really lends itself to enabling people to invest according to their values," said Gotschall.
Folio, or portfolio investing is a new finance alternative that lets investors create portfolios of up to 100 securities each electronically on their computers. Although like mutual funds, they can span a widely diversified range of sectors, industries, themes, indexes, and geographic locales, folios are personalized collections of securities, customized for the individual who owns them, and they carry their own unique costs, tax burdens and measurements of performance.
"Our firm is not a registered investment adviser as such. Therefore, we are not in the position of advising people about managing their money. But we do have a folio adviser business, and we reach out to institutional investors, money managers, and the like, and they can use our screen for their clients," notes Gotschall.
Genocide Intervention Network's three "Highest Offenders" currently trade on
major US stock exchanges and are detected by the Vienna, Virginia firm's
Genocide-Free Stock Screening Tool. The
network identifies the wrongdoers as China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation
or Sinopec (SNP), PetroChina (PTR), and Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Co.
(SHI). This data is subject to change
as the Genocide Intervention Network continues to monitor Sudan offenders over
time. Foliofn vice president
Mary Gotschall says she is proud of being able to find a way for others to make
sure their investments are genocide-free.
"It just occurred to me folio investing was a great tool, not only for the Sudan Divestment Task Force, but down the road, other groups that might have agendas. We might have helped them advance, if you will. And also, the Sudan Divestment Task Force, I know they want to enlarge their genocide screen, not only to Sudan, but worldwide, ultimately. And so we at Foliofn are really hoping to expand our genocide screen to the whole world to match their needs," she said.