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Wespath CIO makes case for sustainable investment

The chief investment officer for the United Methodist Church's pension and health benefits agency, Wespath, has issued a commentary on the importance of sustainable investing.

Dave Zellner has been with Wespath for more than two decades. It is the largest faith-based pension fund in the United States, overseeing more than $26 billion in assets. Zellner is also chair of the FaithInvest board of trustees.

Writing earlier this month in UM News, Zellner spoke of Wespath's desire to invest in alignment with the values of the United Methodist Church while simultaneously adhering to its fiduciary duty to make decisions within the best financial interests of its 'participants, beneficiaries and institutional investors.'

Occasionally in the worlds of sustainable investing there is concern that these two concepts may not be perfectly compatible but Zellner says there's evidence they are. To illustrate this he points to studies that show 'companies with robust environmental, social and governance standards achieve stronger operational performance' and 'that good sustainability practices strengthen stock price.'

'We are convinced that a sustainable global economy is necessary to achieve the investment returns expected by our beneficiaries,' Zellner writes. 'And though we developed our sustainable economy framework through this fiduciary lens, it clearly aligns with the Social Principles’ philosophy related to the Economic Community, the Social Community and the Natural World.'

Zellner acknowledges, though, that there are challenges in values-based investing and notes that pursuing such a path means accepting that not everyone is going to be happy all the time. In his commentary, he takes a look at the two sides of the issue that Wespath often faces, namely, the criticisms that Wespath either does not go far enough or that it oversteps its bounds.

For an explanation on how Wespath addresses these criticisms read Dave Zellner's commentary in full.


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