NEW YORK: Socially responsible investing has long been associated with avoiding companies in "vice businesses" like alcohol, tobacco and weapons. Yet managers at socially conscious fundssay screening companies based on how they treat workers is just as important, especially in light of the April collapse of a factory building in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,200 people.
The disaster triggered calls for US retailers such as Wal-Mart and Gap Inc to join a fire- and building-safety agreement backed by some of Europe's largest apparel brands. Both US companies have so far declined to sign on to the pact, saying their own safety plans will get faster results. Companies with a "best in class" environmental screen, for instance, returned an annual return of 13.07 percent from 1995 to 2003.