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July 23, 2011
Bill Would Give Federal Employees a Sustainable Investment Option
    by Robert Kropp

Congressman Jim Langevin reintroduces the Federal Employees Responsible Investment Act, which would provide a Corporate Responsibility Index as an investment option for federal employees.

For the fifth time, Democratic Congressman Jim Langevin of Rhode Island has sponsored the Federal Employees Responsible Investment Act (FERIA), a bill which would give federal employees a corporate responsibility investment option under the Thrift Savings Plan.

FERIA states, "The Department of Labor has asserted that socially responsible investments (SRI) meet the fiduciary standards set in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)." As was the case in the bill's previous iterations—none of which came up for vote in Congress—the bill would direct the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) to select a Corporate Responsibility Index as an investment option for federal employees.

The Corporate Responsibility Stock Index Fund, the bill further states, would include such criteria as "corporate governance, environmental practices, workplace relations and benefits, product safety and impact, international operations and human rights, involvement with repressive regimes, and community relations."

In a statement, Rep. Langevin said, "The reckless actions of financial institutions over the past few years provide a clear illustration of why we need to place a greater importance on good corporate governance. Investing in companies that are committed to corporate responsibility and sustainability will have a positive impact on our financial system, as well as empower federal employees to reward companies that share their values."

In a press release commending Rep. Langevin for reintroducing the bill, the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US SIF), citing its 2010 Trends Report, stated that more than $3 trillion, or nearly one out of every eight dollars under professional management in the US, was invested in sustainable assets.

If 13% of federal retiree dollars moved into the investment option proposed by the bill, the amount would total more that $30 billion, US SIF noted.

US SIF CEO Lisa Woll stated, "Investors are increasingly turning to sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) options because good corporate governance and performance on social and environmental issues are often indicators of financial success, good management and less risk."

"This measure would give federal employees the range of investment options that many state and private sector employees already enjoy by allowing investments in at least one socially responsible index fund," Woll said.

The bill is in the first step in the legislative process, and is now before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the main investigative committee in the House of Representatives.


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