This year’s Mercy Day celebrations center on the theme of “Walking with Mercy.” While the concept recalls the description of Sisters of Mercy as “Walking Sisters” that is tied to the very beginning of the Mercy Community, it is also deeply connected to the ministries in which the sisters are engaged today, walking with others in a spirit of encuentro.
By Bryan Pini, Mercy Investment Services
For almost two centuries, the Sisters of Mercy have walked with those in need of the compassionate care of Mercy. Today, Mercy Investment Services continues the legacy of the first Sisters of Mercy by walking with organizations, companies, and each other to care for people and planet.
On our journey of socially responsible investing, the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy remain the north star guiding our decisions as we invest in community organizations, invest in funds addressing environmental degradation and social inequities, engage companies on issues impacting our global community, and vote on resolutions at companies in our portfolio. Our work is long-term in nature, as these relationships and partnerships evolve and develop during this journey toward progress on these important issues. Although the results may not be quick, the patience and commitment in our investments and our engagements continues to benefit our sisters and brothers around the world.
For close to 40 years, the Sisters of Mercy have walked with the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, one of the first US community development financial institutions, as it has become a leader in impact investing. In 1984, the Sisters of Mercy provided the fund with its first loan – $43,000 that laid the foundation for the organization, whose cumulative lending now exceeds $415 million. This long-term relationship continues today through Mercy Investment Services’ Mercy Partnership Fund community investing program, which has created or preserved tens of thousands of affordable housing units, almost 4,000 jobs, and more than 4,500 childcare and early childhood education spots, for residents across New Hampshire.
Walking with companies through shareholder advocacy can be a long, winding journey. But with patience and persistence, companies make significant changes. Mercy Investment Services’ long-term shareholder engagement with retailer Target has yielded much progress. Over several years, Mercy has raised issues including worker rights, human rights, nutrition and chemical management, and Target has responded with concrete action. The company has increased starting wages, increased diversity in their senior leadership team, expanded healthcare benefits for hourly workers, conducted a human rights impact assessment of its supply chain, implemented human rights training, began accepting SNAP benefits, increased recycled content and restricted the use of chemicals of concern in their textiles.
As we’ve walked this journey, our work has taken twists and turns to respond to the needs of the time. The increased calls for racial equity led to more focus on racial equity within our existing work as well as two new initiatives this year: the emerging manager program and the Inclusive Opportunities Fund, which address diversity gaps amongst decision-makers and financial access to firms owned by or products managed by people with diverse or underrepresented backgrounds. With patience and persistence, more capital will be directed to women, people of color, and other disenfranchised groups who have been shut out of traditional capital markets and overlooked by mainstream investors.
Just as we’ve witnessed the transformation that has occurred through our investments, I, too, have been transformed through this ministry. My experiences during 16 years with Mercy Investment Services have forever altered how I see the world and how I approach investing. Whether collaborating with the sisters in the theological reflection about extractives, the immersion trips, or individual discussions, lay board and committee volunteers and staff members continue to be transformed through our ministry. We are grateful for the opportunity to accompany the Sisters of Mercy on this journey toward systemic change.
The Sisters of Mercy have walked this socially responsible investing journey for decades and have seen much progress and success over the years. Although the path may feel long, and there may be roadblocks or bumps in the road, walking with companies, community organizations, and each other is an enduring ministry of the Sisters of Mercy that allows us to be Mercy to our sisters and brothers around the world.
Learn more about the ministry’s work at www.mercyinvestmentservices.org.