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Unveiling the Emergence of Biblically Responsible Investing: The Christian Approach to ESG

The Rise of Biblically Responsible Investing: A Unique Approach to Ethical Investment

Over the last two decades, Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) investing has gained popularity as a mainstream financial practice. This approach involves considering environmental, social, and ethical factors while making investment decisions. For instance, ESG investors might avoid companies involved in fossil fuel production or weapons manufacturing and instead focus on investments in transparent and environmentally conscious businesses.

In parallel, a similar concept called Biblical Responsible Investing (BRI) has emerged, emphasizing a different set of principles rooted in Christian values. BRI involves screening out companies associated with perceived moral vices, such as alcohol and tobacco industries, but it also extends to issues like abortion and LGBTQ rights. This screening process leads to the exclusion of companies like AT&T, Boeing, Disney, McDonald’s, and Walmart from BRI portfolios.

The underlying philosophy of BRI lies in the belief that everything on Earth, including money, belongs to God, and humans are merely stewards entrusted with responsibly managing wealth. The goal is to spend God’s money in a manner that aligns with Christian values and brings honor to the Lord Jesus. While other religious denominations may have hierarchical structures guiding their investment decisions, Protestantism in the U.S. leaves the interpretation of the Bible’s principles up to individual companies’ founders.

Companies like Evalueator based in Maitland, Florida, facilitate the screening process for BRI investments. Their researchers comb through data from sources like Morningstar to identify problematic companies that conflict with Christian values. For example, Evalueator flags sectors like entertainment due to their perceived negative impact on viewers. Consequently, companies like Apple, Netflix, and Sony are excluded from BRI funds. Evalueator also screens out firms involved in areas like pornography, alcohol, cannabis, and gambling.

Abortion remains a significant concern for BRI investors. Companies supporting organizations like Planned Parenthood or facilitating abortions for their employees, such as Amazon, MasterCard, and Dick’s Sporting Goods, are also blacklisted. However, BRI investors don’t generally screen out gun manufacturers or fossil fuel companies, despite their potential harm to people and the environment.

BRI companies often provide alternative investments that align with Christian values. The screening process leaves a vast majority of publicly traded companies unaffected, allowing investors to choose “clean” alternatives. Despite the relatively smaller size of BRI compared to ESG, the demand for faith-based investment strategies is growing. Thousands of financial advisors have become Certified Kingdom Advisors, integrating biblical wisdom into their advice for both Christian and non-Christian clients.

While BRI and ESG have similar origins in the historically called Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) movement, they have diverged due to political influences and the rise of corporate activism. BRI’s values are increasingly informed by conservative criteria, leading to conflicts with LGBTQ advocacy and other social issues. On the other hand, some faith-based companies have distanced themselves from ESG, perceiving it as being aligned with liberal activism.

Despite the differences, both BRI and ESG investors seek to make ethical and responsible investment choices. Studies suggest that BRI does not negatively affect returns when compared to traditional S&P 500 investing. However, BRI investors need to adapt their strategies, focusing on smaller-cap companies and avoiding certain high-performing tech giants present in popular mutual funds.

Whether leaning towards BRI or ESG, the increasing awareness of ethical investment strategies is viewed as a positive development. As more people consider the implications of their investments, they are empowered to align their financial choices with their values, contributing to a more conscientious and responsible approach to investment decisions.

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