October 25, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) is sending out a new loan to Fonkoze USA for its efforts in securing financial and technical support to its Haitian partner, Fonkoze. The loan was recommended by the PAB and approved by the Congregation’s General Council.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters have been involved with Fonkoze since 1997, when it first received a loan from the Congregation. Sister Maureen Fenlon, OP, served on the founding board of Fonkoze.
Fonkoze is a family of organizations that work together to empower Haitians – especially women – to move their families out of poverty. The organization’s 45 branches cover every area of Haiti and are the only access to financial services for many Haitians. It envisions a Haiti where “people, standing together, shoulder to shoulder, have pulled themselves out of poverty.”
“As a Haitian institution, Fonkoze is adept at navigating the complexities of working in a failed state with limited infrastructure, insecurity, economic instability, and climactic crisis,” according to Leigh Carter, founder of Fonkoze USA.
The organization is working to mitigate the damage brought about by Hurricane Matthew on October 4, 2016. The hurricane brought “near total devastation” to some areas, and coastal areas continue to suffer from flooding, Leigh Carter reported. Communications channels and the efforts of rescue teams were hampered by the effects of the hurricane.
Before Matthew struck, staff members of the Fonkoze branches had taken precautions by securing files and equipment. The day after the hurricane struck, 27 branches were operating online to assist the people who desperately needed financial help in the wake of Matthew.
Staff members of Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM), a Fonkoze program that serves the ultra poor, immediately began to visit the households of their clients. CLM’s budget includes an emergency fund to support its clients in the current crisis. The nurses in Fonkoze’s Community Health Store reached out to the local community health entrepreneurs. In addition, they will hold a campaign between October 17 and October 31 to train the entrepreneurs on hygiene and cholera prevention, making antibacterial soaps and chlorine solution tablets more readily available.
Fonkoze has learned from its experience in several disasters that have struck Haiti: Hurricane Jeanne in 2004; Hurricanes Faye, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike in 2008; and a 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. In those situations, Fonkoze took the steps necessary to help their clients recover from disaster: forgiving the outstanding balance of loans, offering special loans to help in their recovery, and offering money transfer services to people who desperately needed the immediate financial help.
Founded more than 40 years ago, the PAB was a response to the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ vision for social change. Firmly rooted in the tradition of Catholic social teachings, the PAB helps the Congregation to advocate for social justice in two ways. Through Community Investments work, the PAB offers low-interest loans to non-profit community organizations that benefit low-income people and underserved communities. The PAB Corporate Responsibility arm monitors the Congregation’s investments and engages in shareholder activities on matters of justice involving corporations in which the Congregation invests.
Feature photo: Hurricane Matthew wreaks devastation in Les Cayes, Haiti. 161014-F-MQ799-0385 by The 621st Contingency Response Wing on Flickr, CC BY 2.0
October 4, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – Numerous aspects of the issue of climate change and its effects on Earth have been discussed and analyzed in recent years. A presentation, sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB), focused on a unique but vital slant: how finance can be used as a tool in the fight against climate change.
Geeta Aiyer, CFA, founder and president of Boston Common Asset Management, spoke on “The Climate Finance Landscape – Mitigating the Impact of Climate Change” in the auditorium of Weber Center, before an audience of PAB members, Sisters, Associates, and Co-workers. Geeta has worked closely with the Congregation for about 20 years as an investment manager.
She began by setting her talk in context, noting the urgency of climate change, which can bring about “disruption of climate cycles” and severe weather, as well as “food scarcity, the extinction of species, and the displacement of populations.”
For many years, faith-based organizations have tried to persuade people to address climate change and to change from using fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar. Financial motivation also plays a role, Geeta said. “I firmly believe there is no sustainability without finance,” she said. “Hence, your role as the Portfolio Advisory Board remains central.”
During her talk, Geeta focused on how finance tools can be used as part of a strategy to persuade corporations such as energy companies to lessen the effects of climate change on our planet.
Geeta gave a mixed review of the effectiveness of one popular tool: divestment, selling off your stocks and having nothing to do with a fossil-fuel company, for example. Divestment is a “values statement that says you don’t want to participate in it.” However, she added, the stocks could then go to other owners who don’t care what effects the fossil-fuel companies are having on the environment. In addition, other companies besides fossil fuel corporations put carbon into the air through their operations.
Geeta pointed out that activist shareholders — those who want to make a difference to the environment or social justice through their investments — have a range of tools to persuade corporations to take the environment into account, from dialoguing with the companies to engaging in shareholder resolutions. The PAB, through its Corporate Responsibility arm, engages in those actions to bring about greater social justice and enhance the common good.
Geeta noted the powers of persuasion that shareholders have with the corporations that they invest in because the shareholders would want to make decisions that benefit the corporation as well as the world. As shareholders, “we have a very different voice,” she said. “We want [the corporations] to do well. …We’ll sit with them and talk with them in a voice that can be heard.”
Dialogues between activist shareholders and the companies in which they invest can take many forms, Geeta said. She emphasized the importance of working with fossil-fuel companies to begin to produce renewable energy, with other companies to reduce their use of carbon and to be more efficient, and with insurance companies and banks, who enable continual construction that can increase the use of fossil fuels.
Geeta expressed her own optimism that fossil fuel companies and other corporations will eventually act to make the environment more sustainable. “When we know people are watching, we change how we do things,” she said. For example, if fossil fuel companies realize that the demand for carbon-based energy has been reduced, they might supply more energy through renewable sources. Companies in every sector could become aware of opportunities to make a difference through more efficient use of energy or through technology that helps consumers to measure their own use of energy.
To hear more about this complex issue, watch the video of Geeta’s entire talk below.