Corporate Responsibility and Supporting the Military – A foot in both camps?

A couple of weeks back I received a request from an SRI to confirm whether any of our products and services supported military activity related to weapons delivery. Some SRIs, or specific funds within them, rule out investing in companies that have military involvement as a service for investors who want to avoid investing in such activities.

At a meeting later that same day, one of the topics discussed amongst the companies present was corporate philanthropic support for services to the members of the armed forces. Many in the general public are very supportive of companies that support our people in the armed services and many companies direct some of their community investment in that direction.

At first I noted the irony that a company could be both penalized and rewarded for supporting the military. And all on the same day!  I thought back to my blog post “Which stakeholder hat are you wearing right now?” that looks at how individuals conveniently reprioritize their values depending on which stakeholder hat they are wearing. I wondered if this was an example of that.

But it isn’t. An individual can quite rationally be in both camps without changing their values. The first, as a private investor is about the choice to profit, or not, from defense.  The second is about compassion for and support of individual soldiers and their families.

Of course some people might, also rationally, say that the defensive aspect of the military might protect some of those members of the armed forces our community investment dollars are supporting in their recovery. They might say better even to invest in protecting them and getting them home quicker, than in helping them recover.

Either way though, in so many ways it is a real compliment to the level of sophistication of our civil society that both can coexist, and that we have the mechanisms in place to enable individuals and companies to engage in these different levels of decisions and have a foot in both camps.

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