Investor Advocates for Social Justice (IASJ), formerly the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment (Tri-CRI), was founded in 1975 by Catholic congregations involved in the movement to encourage corporations to leave apartheid South Africa. The work represented below was done under the name Tri-CRI until our organizational transition to Investor Advocates for Social Justice until Fall 2019.
Faith-based institutions have a proud history and legacy as leaders of activating their investments to promote social good, looking at where their money is invested, and engaging with companies around the impacts of their business. In the United States, many churches, synagogues, and Congregations of Women and Men Religious autonomously manage their own financial resources like pension funds, retirement funds, and endowment funds. Historically, these faith-based institutions have instructed financial managers to screen out companies participating in unjust behavior that were at odds with their values and ministry. However, by 1970, growing concerns about human rights, women and people of color in the workplace, the environment, and unjust corporate behavior led religious institutions to think about more active strategies beyond screens to use the leverage that their financial resources and share-holdings in companies provided.
Apartheid South Africa Investor Movement
American business activities with the government of apartheid South Africa was a pinnacle concern during the 1960’s and onward that rallied faith-based investors to work together. They realized that rather than divesting, collectively engaging corporate management regarding their concerns could help change company behavior. In 1971 the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) was founded to bring together the work of faith-based investors and religious leaders using their investments to end apartheid and promote corporate social responsibility.
At the time, General Motors was a large employer and investor in South Africa, and many religious institutions that held stock in the company grew concerned about its involvement. In 1970, the Episcopal Church filed a shareholder resolution with the company to request that it withdraw its business from South Africa until apartheid was abolished. The engagement around apartheid South Africa continued on for 20 years with companies like American Express, Union Carbide, Corning, IBM, Merck, Pfizer, Chevron, Bristol-Myers, Eli Lilly, and Newmont Mining. This extensive effort was one of many factors and movements that contributed to ending Apartheid.
In 1975, IASJ was founded as the Tri-State (Connecticut, New Jersey, New York) Coalition for Responsible Investment as one of the first and the largest Catholic Coalitions for Responsible Investment (CRI) organizations. Under the leadership and organizing of Father Michael Crosby, OSF, with support from Catholic leadership structures, CRIs were established in different regions across the country to facilitate the work of Catholic institutions in partnership with the larger interfaith community of ICCR. Through the years IASJ members met, developed strategies for addressing corporate impacts that affected our region, and organized around shared issues of concern.
A New Moment: Investor Advocates for Social Justice
Recognizing the important legacy and power of this work and the need to evolve to meet the changing needs of our community, in 2019, the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment evolved away from the CRI structure and to Investor Advocates for Social Justice. The organization’s members called for a move towards an interfaith mandate and a broader regional reach, and to reaffirm our mission to advocate on behalf of investors with faith-based values to promote human rights, climate justice, racial equity, and the common good on behalf of our Affiliate investors.
History of Women’s Leadership
Our founders, past directors, and many Affiliates take part in a rich history of women religious breaking boundaries and leading social justice advocacy across the globe. After its founding, IASJ (formerly Tri-CRI) was led by Catholic sisters Regina Murphy, SC, and John Marion Davidson, OP. IASJ (formerly Tri-CRI) went on to be led by Sister Pat Wolf, RSM, Sister Barbara Glendon, OSU, Sister Patricia Daly, OP, and now Mary Beth Gallagher, who serves as our current Executive Director.
The United States welcomed a large influx of women joining religious life and they have been committed social justice advocates. For many, joining religious life provided an avenue to access higher education, meaningful careers, and to radically align one’s lifestyle to their values. Catholic sisters have historically worked for low to no wages as teachers, nurses, childcare providers, charity coordinators, and activists giving themselves to a life of service to society. They have participated in and led movements to promote peace and to end discrimination across the globe.
Sisters among our Affiliates and interfaith networks pioneered the field of shareholder activism on corporate accountability, and continue to lead the work today. Over the decades, they have used their institutions’ investments to courageously take on powerful industries like weapons manufacturers, pharmaceuticals, fossil fuel companies, agriculture commodities, and big banks over serious human rights abuses. Starting with the movement to divest American businesses from apartheid South Africa, religious women at IASJ have moved companies on many important legacy issues:,
Many US corporations conducted business in South Africa under apartheid rule, despite the Anti-Apartheid Act enacted in the US in 1986 imposing sanctions against the country. IASJ and other interfaith investors at ICCR engaged banks, oil and gas producers, technology companies, and other consumer goods businesses like Colgate and Coca Cola. IASJ Affiliate congregations filed repeated shareholder resolutions at these companies, asking the management to halt operations in South Africa until apartheid was abolished. The engagement around apartheid South Africa continued on for 20 years with companies like American Express, Union Carbide, Corning, IBM, Merck, Pfizer, Chevron, Bristol-Myers, Eli Lilly, and Newmont Mining. This extensive effort was one of many factors and movements that contributed to ending Apartheid.