Written by Robert Fishkin and Michelle Haimoff
Sometimes socially conscious investing works.
Photo: Libertinus, Creative Commons, Flickr
Consumers persuade companies to be more sensitive to their labor force and our environment, and the companies become generally more accountable and transparent. Shareholder activism reshapes corporate priorities, leading to managers who are not just effective business strategists but also responsible citizens.
But sometimes socially conscious investing doesnt work.
Companies design their own websites and can say whatever they want on them. Socially questionable mammoths like Monsanto (MON $75.48), Philip Morris (PM $46.12), Premier Election Solutions (formerly Diebold) (DBD - $31.45) and Exxon Mobil (XOM - $77.32) all claim to be extraordinarily good corporate citizens.
If and when others challenge the claims made by these companies on their websites, they challenge them somewhere other than the websites themselves. And since whistleblowers never get a chance to address the misinformation in context, often all investors see is the subtle spin on the official corporate page.
Transparency has been impractical using the technology we have, but for the past two years Reframe It has aimed to improve this technology.
Reframe It enables people to comment in the margin of any webpage without the permission of the site, alongside a parallel, coordinated web page. Users that install Reframe It's extension for Firefox or Internet Explorer can comment on any sentence on any of 34 billion web pages. This includes every corporate web page out there.
Reframe It launches today, and if it is successful, it will change the incentives that make many forms of corporate misinformation, such as "greenwashing," lucrative. It will bring dissenting voices right to the edge of the web. It will empower users to challenge information at the source.
Socially conscious investing can work. We now have the technology.