Best Friends Blog
 

Global banking firm takes a stand for the animals

Chocolate Labrador retrieverA couple of weeks ago I blogged about the shift in policy at SeaWorld, thanks in part to the efforts of animal welfare and animal rights organizations, but mainly due to the impact of the powerful documentary Blackfish. This documentary provided a focus and public forum for the growing public disapproval of animal abuse of all types. People started voting with their feet, SeaWorld caved, and it is still in backpedal mode.

The takeaway was that what happened to SeaWorld, which was long overdue, is part of a larger wave of public sentiment that is driving positive change for the animals through the economics of the bottom line. Whether it’s about puppy mills or major corporations that exploit animals for entertainment, the public is calling the shots by declaring what they will and won’t pay for. The same holds true for the situation in Oklahoma, which was also highlighted here recently. The tide of change is so persistent that the Oklahoma agriculture industry is trying to pass laws to stop change altogether!

Then just today, we learned news of the next big wave. The ING Group, a global bank based in the Netherlands, has announced a new “policy for animal welfare.”
ING is a massive multinational corporation that invests in all sorts of companies with the goal of making money for clients.

The policy states, in part: “Clients in the animal husbandry sector will have to prove that animals are treated in line with the Five Freedoms, among other requirements related to transport and stewardship.” ING’s statement acknowledges the increasing demand for sustainable food on a planet with a rapidly growing population — all while “minimizing negative impacts to communities, the environment and the animals’ health.”

More from ING: “The policy applies to companies managing farming activities (cattle, poultry, pigs, etc.) and fish hatcheries; those that trade or use endangered animals; animals in entertainment (zoos, circuses, household pet industry); and animals used in laboratory settings to advance human health.”

Wow!

A company that manages $1.3 trillion has taken a major stand for the animals. It’s yet another sign of which way the wind is blowing. ING’s stance certainly won’t change the world all on its own, but it will certainly play a big part.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Vote with your dollar.” It’s a simple economic principle that suggests that you, as a consumer, can have an effect on the world. Support good companies and eventually the bad companies go away. It’s an obvious idea, but in a world of conglomerates, it can be very difficult to actually understand how to spend your dollars humanely. The companies from which you buy (let’s say cosmetics) may not test on animals, but more often than not those companies are owned by a much larger company, which does test on animals. As a consumer, voting with your dollar isn’t always as easy as it may seem.

With ING’s new policy, however, the pressure is now directly on these global companies that seek precious investment dollars.

At Best Friends, we offer our employees a 401(k) package. Tri-Ad, the firm that manages the fund, offers a “humane fund.” It’s a way that our employees who care deeply about animals and the environment can invest in a set of companies that have been vetted and are known to be good stewards.

With ING’s new policy, Tri-Ad will surely have many more companies from which to choose for investment. It’s good for the animals, good for people, and good for the planet.

Together, we will Save Them All.

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Francis Battista
Co-founder
Best Friends Animal Society

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  • Howard Haber

    As a long-time member of BF I’m fascinated by the idea of the “humane option” within the BF 401(k). However I believe there is a better and more interesting way to achieve the stated goal. Clients of our firm (www.apollowealth.com) often ask us about Socially Responsible Investing. It’s a noble aim but it misses the mark. In fact there are investment options devoted solely to “sin stocks” such as tobacco and firearms – and they often “outperform” benchmarks. We tell our clients that investing is a means to an end – not an end in itself. The goal is to maximize returns. If the desired outcome is to use returns to further social causes them making a decision to intentionally give up “excess returns” in favor of feeling good about oneself misses the point. How ironic (and more profitable) would it be to, for example, invest in AB InBev and use the profits to fund a MADD chapter? Similarly rather than avoiding “inhumane investments” why not use “excess returns” to advocate against factory farming, etc?

    • Howard Haber

      Some folks have contacted me privately so I feel
      a bit of clarification is in order. I am
      not advocating for inhumane practices.
      More so I seek to draw a distinction between investments and their
      underlying companies. Stocks are a proxy
      for companies the way grades are for students.
      They don’t define the underlying company/student – they are a means of
      evaluation/measurement. As a consumer I
      can choose not to purchase Nike products (for their support of Michael Vick)
      but that needn’t stop me from buying Nike stock.

  • KMalk10

    While I applaud ING’s statement, it will be a miracle if they see this through. Bankers from junior associates through executive directors will hide the truth if it jeopardizes a deal. In case anyone hasn’t noticed from the financial crisis or the 15 years of headlines prior to it, the banking industry makes organized crime look okay. They flaunt rules on money laundering for drug cartels! Does anyone really think factory farming is off-limits? Please.