Posted by Tim Stobbs on July 23, 2009
Vices. Let’s face the world is full of them, but weather to invest in them starts to shift pure investment decisions into the world of ethics. After all do you really want to invest in a cigarette company whos product you know hurts people’s health? If you are a none smoker, you might have a problem, but if you yourself smoke you might be fine with it.
I personally limit my vice investments to booze, Corby Distilleries (CDL.A or CDL.B), to be exact. I know booze can be abused by some, but that has never bothered me. My personal belief is there are a lot more people out there using it moderation that those that are abusing it. The product in my mind isn’t the issue, but rather how people use it is. Others may think I’m full of shit, but I’m ok with that.
On the other hand I will never own a cigarette manufacture. I can’t justify supporting that industry with investment from me. I don’t think any amount of their product is safe and I don’t think it’s ok to make money by hurting people directly.
Then drug manufactures start to hit a grey area. It is right to make profit off people’s sickness or are you really helping them? Was Viagra a force for good in this world, or just an over hyped drug which helped people ignore their other health issues like high stress levels? It depends on your personal point of view.
Yet once you start down this path of thinking of things in terms of ethics, where do you drawn the line? After all should you avoid investing in TransAlta due to their coal plants which contribute to climate change or are they just trying to provide power to people with what was near by? Or is Walmart an evil company that abuses workers in many countries or a money making machine that provides goods at a low cost? It depends on how you view the situation and the reality is there is no one right answer.
Ethics should guide your investment choices at some level, but I would caution getting too worried about it. After all just about everyone has done something to someone which someone else would consider unethical on the surface. It takes effort to look at the whole picture and decide for yourself what you can and can’t invest in. Remember there isn’t a right answer, but there is an answer which works for you.