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ELGIN, Ill. – Nearly a month after the Church of the Brethren Credit Union received regulator approval to expand its charter to more than 135,000 parishioners nationwide, talks are underway to launch a CUSO that will offer socially responsible investments. The CUSO will follow the lead of the Brethren Benefit Trust, a 60-year old non-profit agency that reports to the Church and currently offers more than 4,075 members pension plans worth $272 million including 1,030 retirees who have annuities worth nearly $100 million. The BBT also manages $228 million in investments for charitable agencies and other companies. Key to all investments is the exclusion of companies that generate 10% or more of their revenue from defense, gambling, tobacco or alcohol activities. “We’ve taken a moral position that won’t allow us to contribute to something that would harm society,” said Will Thomas, BBT director of foundation operations, adding “we’ve compared our returns to some of the major market indexes over a ten-year period and found that we stack up against others pretty well.” The credit union’s CUSO is set to launch by year end or early 2005, said Dennis Kingery, director of credit union operations. “While the BBT charter limits it to charitable agencies, the CUSO’s (investment) services will be available to credit union members,” Kingery said. The BBT carries out socially responsible investing through screening, positive investment and shareholder action, Thomas said. In addition to not investing in companies that derive their revenue from defense, gambling, tobacco or alcohol activities, BBT’s guidelines exclude any companies listed among the twenty-five largest defense contractors. BBT also offers a community development investment fund through which organizations put their resources to work funding affordable housing, micro-lending, and community development efforts, Thomas said. Invested funds are loaned through local organizations to borrowers in economically disadvantaged areas within the United States and internationally. As a stockholder in the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a group of 276 faith-based investors, the BBT initiates and participates in discussions with corporate managements to encourage the adoption of business practices more likely to promote social justice and to protect and preserve the natural environment. Thomas is chairman of the group’s governing board. “When dialog does not lead to the desired results, sponsoring a shareholder resolution sometimes moves an effort to a new stage,” Thomas said. “A shareholder resolution represents a direct call to the board of directors to take action in response to its owners’ preferences.” [email protected]

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