Religion & Beliefs

Put A Nun In Charge of Your Investments

The Washington Post has a great article about a nun who works to ensure that corporate America has a conscience. From her apartment in a public housing complex on the eastern edge of Manhattan, Sister Valerie Heinonen, a Catholic nun … Read More

By / June 5, 2007

The Washington Post has a great article about a nun who works to ensure that corporate America has a conscience.

From her apartment in a public housing complex on the eastern edge of Manhattan, Sister Valerie Heinonen, a Catholic nun of the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, combs through corporate filings, shoots off carefully worded letters to executives, and holds conference calls with board secretaries and lawyers. Shelf after shelf of annual reports and proxy statements from Fortune 500 companies fill her otherwise sparse living room.

For 30 years, Heinonen has been a familiar sight at shareholder meetings across the country, pressing financial services firms to support affordable housing or defense contractors to limit weapons sales. Now, the 66-year-old activist is seeking social justice through one of the hot-button issues of this spring's annual shareholder meetings: executive compensation.

"There just has been so much attention drawn to the very high amount of executive compensation, the huge pension awards, stock options, everything," said Heinonen, who is a consultant on corporate social responsibility to religious shareholders. "I think we have come to realize that the corporate governance issues are kind of a framework for social and environmental issues that we're concerned about."

Full Story This is one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever heard. Putting a nun in charge of making CEOs take responsibility for the actions of their companies is perfect because everyone’s afraid of nuns! Sadly, not everyone is afraid of rabbis, so I’m not sure a rabbi in the same job would be as effective. Still, it’s important to make sure your synagogue knows that you care about social justice in the corporate world. If you’re concerned about unethical conduct at a company where you invest, you should contact the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, and tell your rabbi, too. If you get lucky, one of the Executive VPs will be the grandson of a member of your synagogue sisterhood.