Catholic Impact Profile: Mercy Investment Services

Mercy Investment Services, the investment management program of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and its ministries, recognizes the moral imperative to work for a just and sustainable world, and embraces socially responsible investing as a means of promoting systemic change to respond to the critical needs of the time. We continue the legacy of Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, who devoted her life and financial resources to serving the poor, the sick and those in need, with a particular focus on women and children. She was a tireless advocate for those marginalized by society, and she collaborated with others to remedy the injustices of her day. 

As Catholic investors, we are called to heed Pope Francis’ plea to “serve the common good” by using our financial resources for the benefit of all. While many investors only utilize a small portion of their investment assets to support their mission, Mercy Investment Services effects systemic change by using the entire investment portfolio to address the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy: nonviolence, anti-racism, immigration, care for Earth, and fullness of life for women. Mercy Investment Services’ investment strategy goes beyond negative portfolio screens and also 1) seeks companies with positive environmental, social and governance records, 2) actively engages corporations and votes its proxy at companies, and 3) invests to achieve environmental and social impacts. Our comprehensive impact program, rooted in the Gospel, aligns our financial resources with the mission and values of the Sisters of Mercy.

Shareholder Advocacy

Mercy Investment Services actively promotes changes in corporate practices to achieve social and economic justice, a sustainable Earth and the common good. Through a comprehensive corporate engagement program and collaboration with others who share our commitment to human dignity, mercy and justice, Mercy Investment Services files shareholder resolutions, participates in company dialogues, educates on issues of concern, and votes proxies of companies owned in the investment portfolio. Annually, Mercy Investment Services engages approximately 150 companies covering 200 engagements. Highlights of our shareholder engagements include:

  1. Mercy Investment Services co-founded the Investors for Opioid Accountability (IOA), a coalition of 58 investors representing $4.3 trillion in assets under management. The IOA filed 50 resolutions on board oversight of opioid risks at pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and retailers. 

  2. Utility companies such as AES and Southern have committed to retiring existing coal plants and reducing their emissions. AES has become an industry leader in renewable energy and battery storage, bringing the world’s largest solar-plus-storage system online.

  3. Through engagements with hotel chains, airlines and trucking companies, more than 250,000 airline staff, 730,000 truck drivers and 700,000 hotel employees have been trained to identify human trafficking victims. Hotel chains have also refused to house detainees being transported to detention facilities. 

  4. An engagement with Dick’s Sporting Goods led the company to end sales of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines and to stop selling to anyone under the age of 21. Companies’ roles in the gun violence epidemic continue to be raised with gun manufacturers and other retailers. 

  5. Companies with significant water use such as Coca-Cola and Campbell’s Soup have reduced their water use and worked to return water used in production to the communities in which they operate. 

In addition, Mercy Investment Services votes its proxies for all U.S. and global company annual meetings to address environmental, social and governance concerns. In the 2019 proxy year, Mercy Investments voted approximately 26,500 ballot initiatives on 2,150 U.S. and global proxies.

Impact Investing

Mercy Partnership Fund

Mercy Partnership Fund, the global community investing program of Mercy Investment Services, continues the Sisters of Mercy’s long history of making below market-rate investments in organizations creating positive social and environmental impacts by addressing underlying social justice issues, such as inadequate access to housing, jobs, education and health services in underserved communities. Current investments in 60 mission-driven organizations benefit the economically poor, especially women and children, concentrating on those who are unserved or poorly served through traditional financial sources. The Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Partnership Fund have often been early investors or the first faith-based investor in organizations. Current investees include:

  1. Mercy Housing and Mercy Loan Fund – Provides affordable housing and supportive services for low-income families, seniors, and people with special needs throughout the United States.

  2. Azure Source Capital – Works to improve water and sanitation services for underserved communities in El Salvador. 

  3. Shared Interest – Provides access to local capital and technical support for small and growing businesses, small-holder farmers and cooperatives in low-income communities of color in South Africa and other Southern African countries.

  4. First Nations Oweesta Corporation – Provides investment capital, training and technical assistance to Native community development financial institutions.

  5. Solar and Energy Loan Fund – Offers energy expertise and low-cost loans to homeowners and small businesses in underserved communities to finance sustainable, energy-efficient property improvements. 

In 2018, Mercy Partnership Fund’s community investments benefitted individuals in 59 countries and in all 50 states. 

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Environmental Solutions Fund

Recognizing that addressing climate change is the greatest moral imperative of our time, Mercy Investment Services created an Environmental Solutions Fund in 2015, which funds mission-related, positive market-rate alternative investment projects focused on renewable energy, energy and water efficiency, materials recycling, green buildings, sustainable agriculture and sustainable forestry. Initial investments include:

  1. Berkeley Energy – Accelerates social, economic and environmental sustainability through the development, construction and operation of small hydro, wind, geothermal, solar and biomass renewable energy facilities in the Philippines, Indonesia & India. 

  2. Starsight – Provides clean, reliable, affordable energy in Nigeria through the installation of solar-diesel-battery hybrid systems to store green energy and offers its customers significant power cost savings, while reducing CO2 emissions from existing diesel generators and greenhouse gases.

  3. sPower – Funded wind and solar renewable energy projects in the southwest United States; put four million solar panels in operation that generate 1.3 gigawatts of clean power per year.

  4. AeroFarms and Living Green Farms – Vertical farming operations that use 95% less water, no pesticides or herbicides, and fewer nutrients than traditional farming. The U.S.-based farms reduce the carbon footprint of vegetables by growing fresh produce in areas that typically require long-haul transport to receive the product. 

  5. Volta – National network of electric vehicle charging stations. Volta uses advertising on more than 700 charging stations in high-traffic areas and partnerships with the location owners to keep the charging stations free for vehicle owners. 

Environmental Solutions Fund projects across 14 countries and 23 states have created 5.1 gigawatts of clean energy capacity since 2015 and avoided 4.8 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2018. 


Our Collaborative Efforts

Mercy Investment Services, from its beginning, has sought to collaborate with other organizations to develop strategies and directions to achieve a common goal. Partnerships with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and other global, national and local coalitions, which bring together like-minded shareholders for collaboration, and participation in the Opportunity Finance Network, Mission Investors Exchange and Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative, which provide forums for building and sharing experiences about impact investing, have been instrumental in the creation and growth of our program.

Our Challenge

We invite you to unlock the potential of your investment portfolio to fulfill the mission of your organization and work for a just and sustainable world. In a world filled with poverty, violence and racism as well as the widespread denial of human rights, the degradation of Earth, the continued oppression of women, the abuse of children, the mistreatment of immigrants and the lack of solidarity among people and nations, we invite each of you to sign the Catholic Impact Investing pledge and join us in using your organization’s investments to address the growing concerns of our global community. Whether your impact is accomplished by engaging companies, voting proxies, making impact investments, or some combination of these approaches, we challenge everyone to take action.