Martin Luther King on Socially Responsible Investing

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“Tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy SealtestWonder Bread.”  Martin Luther King told milk. Tell them not to buy–what is the other bread?– the parishoners of Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, the Sunday before his assasination.

Martin Luther King is remembered today, even more so this year with Barack Obama’s inauguration, as the leader of the voting rights movement.  However, it is forgotten that Martin Luther King, at the time of his assasination, was proposing to create a collective financial hammer to promote his social and economic agenda.

“Now we are poor people, individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America…”We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That’s power right there, if we know how to pool it.”    And Socially Responsible Investing was born.

“We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles, we don’t need any Molotov cocktails, we just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, … make the first item on your agenda–fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.”

Martin Luther King’s dream lives on today, 40 years after his death, in the form of Socially Responsible Investing.  Individually we are poor, but if we all make the same investment decisions, we can re-shape the economy.

Socially Responsible Investing is now a big business, with many different SRI funds to choose from, and lot’s of money managers who promote themselves as “Socially Responsible”.  If you practice Socially Responsible Investing, what advice would you have for others, who wish to follow Dr. King’s last sermon?

Photo Credit: Mattlemmon under a Creative Commons Liscence.

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