I've talked a lot on GradMoney about how different worldviews and religions invest for impact, but I have yet to touch on my own religion: Catholicism. While there are lot of mutual funds and ETFs dedicated to Catholic interests - such as the Global X S&P 500 Catholic Values ETF (CATH), which invests in hundreds of S&P 500 components that qualify according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB’s) stated values - today I want to talk about how the church views and uses dividend investments.
So what does the Catholic Church think about dividends? They like them quite a lot, actually. The USCCB has a 6,000-word document (because we Catholics love words) which you can read here, that highlights the most important principles and policies. The main points include the following:
Protecting human life
Protecting human dignity
Reducing arms production
Pursuing economic justice
Protecting the environment
Encouraging corporate responsibility
Ultimately, the Catholic Church anticipates returns on investments since the policy reads that it requires: "a reasonable return on its investments and is required to operate in a fiscally sound, responsible and accountable manner."
A recent article in Forbes highlighted the top 5 positions in the CATH ETF and why they are important for achieving the Catholic values mentioned above. I'm sure just about all of these stocks will look familiar to you...
Apple (AAPL - Dividend Yield 1.8%)
Surprising? It shouldn't be! Although this is one of lowest-paying dividend stocks in the CATH ETF, the emphasis is more on the socially responsible aspect. For social responsibility, while Steve Jobs made Apple great, it was Tim Cook that made social initiatives a priority in Cupertino, California. By 2014, all of Apple’s American operations were powered by renewable energy, its products consume far less energy than earlier iterations and the company has taken additional steps to make its supply chain more transparent and crack down on human rights violations in the making of its products.
AES Corp. (AES - Dividend Yield 4.4%)
AES is a basic global utility play as far as its substantial dividend is concerned, though it’s far more global in scale than most traditional utility holdings. The stock's qualifications for this list include a strategy to bring global carbon emissions down by 20% to 30% from 2012 through 2018 – a strategy that’s already yielding double-digit results. The company also generates nearly a quarter of its energy via renewable power sources.
Host Hotels & Resorts (HST Dividend Yield 4.4%)
Host is actually a REIT (real estate investment trust) that’s perfect for the current market environment thanks to its strong positioning that should allow it to easily raise rates to compensate for any additional interest-rate hikes from the Federal Reserve. Host Hotels has a number of social and environmental responsibility initiatives, including community investment, charities, community service, and reducing energy use and water consumption across its portfolio by double digits since 2008.
Welltower (HCN - Dividend Yield 4.8%)
Another REIT on this list (because they pay high dividends) is Welltower: a Health Care REIT until a name change in 2015, is one of the largest healthcare-minded REITs, investing in several types of properties within the space. HCN is a play on the baby boomers via its senior housing – it was an early player in this business, but is rapidly expanding its portfolio here – while also boasting post-acute care (illness or surgery rehab) facilities as well as outpatient medical centers. The company not only maintains environmental sustainability targets, but also acts to “eradicate the risk of modern slavery and human trafficking” per a 2015 U.K. act.
Iron Mountain (IRM - Dividend Yield 6.4%)
Lastly, Iron Mountain is a very interesting REIT because of its spot at the intersection of technology, old-school security and real estate. Despite its growing datacenter arm, Iron Mountain is dedicated toward reducing energy use in its facilities, using more renewable energy to power its operations and reinvesting in its communities. Those and other initiatives give IRM the bishops’ green light.
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