Awards Laud Socially Responsible Funds in the US

If 2001 was a rough year for the market, it was a relatively good year for socially responsible investing (SRI). And it was a particularly great year for the folks investing with the four firms that won the Social Investing Awards just announced by Business Ethics magazine.

One of the particularly spectacular high-flyers was the Ariel Appreciation Fund, which won the magazine’s Mid-Cap Fund Award for the second time. Through third quarter 2001 – the period examined by Business Ethics judges – this mid-cap value fund brought in five-year average returns of 15.6% – while the S&P 400 Midcap benchmark was down 19%.

Winning the Large Cap Fund Award was the Calvert Social Investment Fund Equity Portfolio – a classic SRI fund, launched in 1982, that celebrates it 20th anniversary this year. This was the first mutual fund to take a stand against apartheid in South Africa, the first to file a shareholder resolution, and one of the first to call for reinvesting in a free South Africa. With relatively low risk, this large-cap fund brought in three-year average returns through third quarter of more than 15%, compared to the S&P 500 at just a hair more than 2%. The fund’s parent firm, the Calvert Group, is a leading SRI firm based in Bethesda, Md.

Equally impressive to judges was the performance of the Parnassus Equity Income Fund, which won the Equity Income Fund Award. On a three-year basis through third quarter, it brought in an average of 16.85% annually – besting the S&P 500 by more than 13 points.

Business Ethics also gave its Money Manager Award to a leading SRI firm serving institutional and high-net-worth investors. This year the award went to Walden Asset Management. In 2001 the firm filed 35 shareholder resolutions with corporations, aiming to push social issues. And its composites in many areas – small-cap, large-cap, and balanced – all beat their benchmarks by substantial margins. Walden Asset Management is the socially responsive investment division of United States Trust Co. of Boston, which has been an SRI leader for more than two decades.

Business Ethics magazine is a 15-year-old publication focused on corporate social responsibility and social investing. Judges for its four-year-old Social Investing Awards include investment advisors, portfolio managers, and pension fund managers.

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