Gates Foundation to review social impact of investments

January 11, 2007|By Charles Piller | Charles Piller,Los ANgeles Times

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced yesterday that it will review its investments to determine whether its holdings are socially responsible.

In addition to what it called a continuing review of "our approach to investments," the foundation said on its Web site, "we will review other strategies that can fulfill a social responsibility role, both in terms of their aspirations and in understanding the impact that they may have. We will also formalize the process by which Bill and Melinda Gates analyze and review these issues."

The announcement came after the Los Angeles Times published a two-part investigation showing that the foundation reaps vast financial gains every year from investments that contravene its good works. The Times found that the foundation invested hundreds of millions of dollars in companies that contribute to the very problems the foundation tries to solve.

Using the most recent data available, the Times found that hundreds of Gates Foundation investments - totaling at least $8.7 billion, or 41 percent of its assets, not including U.S. and foreign government securities - have been in companies that countered the foundation's charitable goals or socially concerned philosophy.

In an interview yesterday with the Seattle Times, Cheryl Scott, chief operating officer, said the foundation would determine whether it should pull its money out of companies that harm society.

She said the foundation's current method of investing its assets is "not 100 percent effective." This year, for the first time, Scott said, the foundation will do a methodical review to find out whether "there are cases simply where the situation is so egregious it will cause us not to invest."

Charles Piller writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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