Personal beliefs or simply business?

If you are currently employed, looking for a job, have invested or plan to invest in companies that are not in line with your personal beliefs that can be a source of great confusion and dilemma. Certain industries, such as defense/military, tobacco products or companies headquartered in countries which your home country sees as an enemy can make for some very tough decisions.

Look at US based Lockheed Martin, a company which is on the leading edge of military technology and equipment including some of the best fighter jets in the world and many other weapons systems. For some, this company does not represent any discrepancies with their personal belief system as they believe this company is responsible for the protection of either their home country or their allies. However, if you are from a country which is on the other side politically from the US or if you happen to believe that investing or working for a company that is responsible for the deaths of people, regardless of their nationality or intentions, then you have to decide whether or not you should work for them or invest in them even though it may be a great choice for you, economically.

By the way, it does not even have to be a controversial company like a weapons manufacturer or cigarette company; it could be any industry or company that you do not agree with. Many people dislike cable and telecom companies (at least in Canada) because of their own experiences with them as consumers. This could also be a reason to not work or invest in them if you feel strongly enough about it.

I am not here to make this decision for you because it should be a personal choice that you must be completely comfortable with because otherwise you will be kicking yourself for the money you lost out on or you will feel hypocritical for being involved in actions that your employer/investment has participated in while you believe it is wrong. The only thing worse than making this decision is making this decision blind and only after you’ve invested in it or started working there you realize that they do things that you philosophically reject. Therefore, it is very important that you do your research before hand and look for these types of issues.

Perhaps you don’t agree with what a company does but you are not bothered with their actions and all you care about is your return on investment, well, this is also a decision. I would usually not recommend this type of decision because I believe that you should try to invest and/or work for a company that you can be proud of their actions not only their balance sheet. You should take some social responsibility in your investments because this is your contribution to the world, as small as it may seem and you want it to be in line with your personal beliefs and values.

Some investors will not invest in entire industries such as the tobacco industry or defense industry. Others will invest a particular company within an industry they do not agree with because they feel that the good this company does out weighs the bad they produce. Additionally, there are some that do not look at the industry at all and will theoretically invest in multiple companies in an industry they do not agree with because they feel that these companies act as responsibly as possible and they are ok with it. I think all of these strategies are fine as long as you feel good with that decision. These decisions are (or at least should be) made by every investor when they develop their investment strategy.