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September 07, 2005
Blogging SRI
    by William Baue

SRI Notes and SRI-Extra harness the strengths of weblogs to comment candidly on developments in socially responsible investment as they happen.


A discussion tying game theory to socially responsible business practices. A review corralling recent developments on divestment from companies doing business with the genocidal government of Sudan. Links to online resources on socially responsible investing (SRI) and corporate social responsibility (CSR). These are just a few examples of what you can find at SRI Notes and SRI-Extra, two weblogs (or "blogs") devoted to SRI that have sprung up in the past year. With the rising popularity of blogging, it was only a matter of time before the SRI community harnessed this online communications medium.

"I initially dismissed blogging as a fad, but I think the medium has several advantages over other outlets," said Lloyd Kurtz, a senior portfolio manager at Nelson Capital Management who manages the SRI Notes blog, as well as the sristudies.org online database of research on SRI. "First, blogs are immediate--when something happens, it's a lot faster to put something up on a blog than it is to publish it in a newspaper, magazine or journal."

"Second, blogs cut out the middleman--bloggers can comment directly without being filtered which can be a good thing or a bad thing," Mr. Kurtz told SocialFunds.com.

Media filters can function positively--for example, fact-checkers verifying the accuracy of statistics, proofreaders catching typos, editors revising weak arguments, or even publishers rejecting wacko proposals. However, they can also filter out what blog readers yearn for: unmitigated opinion, emotional response, and speculation into the unknowable future.

"I think of the blog as a counterpart to sristudies.org, which is a structured database or directory, while the blog provides unstructured commentary on the underlying data," explains Mr. Kurtz.

Such unstructured commentary may not be appropriate in a professional workplace, but may be very valuable in advancing the understanding of the SRI community.

"The blog functions as a place to put my thoughts that are often independent and not immediately applicable to my current tasks," says Graham Sinclair, a product manager at KLD Research & Analytics who writes the SRI-Extra blog.

Mr. Kurtz and Mr. Sinclair both agree that blogging vastly broadens the reach of their ideas.

"As a South African sitting in Boston with colleagues and peers on four continents, I'm able to speak internationally and have quick connections to Sydney or London or Cape Town," Mr. Sinclair told SocialFunds.com.

SRI Notes recently increased its reach when the Center for Responsible Business (CRB) of the Haas School of Business adopted hosting of the blog, along with the sristudies.org website and the Moskowitz Prize that Mr. Lloyd he founded in the mid-'90s to honor the year's best research on SRI. The Haas connection adds not only technological but also institutional resources.

"The best thing about the Haas relationship is that I have the school's research resources and some time on campus each year so that I can investigate issues in greater depth," said Mr. Kurtz.

Distinguishing SRI Notes is the presence of several experts in the SRI field as contributors, including Steve Lydenberg and Jeff MacDonagh of Domini Social Investments, Paul Hilton of the Calvert Group, and Steve Lippman of Trillium Asset Management. While they help shape SRI's present course in their official capacities, they can also help shape the future of SRI through their theoretical meditations.

"SRI is in a strange position--it has been around in its present form for 20 years or more, and is gaining mainstream acceptance, but at the same time needs to evolve to keep up with client demands and ensure that it remains relevant going forward," said Mr. Kurtz. "And things are happening very quickly in this profession, on several continents."

"I see the blog as a way to react to important news, set down thoughts we might otherwise lose, and to invite comments or criticism," concluded Mr. Kurtz.


Editor's Note:
SocialFunds.com has added an RSS ("Really Simple Syndication") feed, the technology that alerts readers when their favorite blogs and news sources post new content and headlines on their websites.

 

 
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