This article is part of our Real-Money Stock Picks series.
I'm always on the lookout for socially responsible ways to invest the cash of the real-money stock portfolio I'm managing for Fool.com. Over the weekend, several of my Foolish colleagues offered up an idea that would fit the bill. Even better, the idea they put forth is not only positive, but downright revolutionary. It made me happier than ever to be a Fool.
Shortly after the Olympic opening ceremony, Isaac Pino, Charlie Kannel, and Tom Gardner outlined in detail Dow Chemical's (NYSE: DOW ) ties to the 1984 Bhopal tragedy in India, and described how the negative after-effects of the incident have continued.
Dow Chemical, which bought original polluter Union Carbide, as the article outlines, has offended those who recall history by its sponsorship of the 2012 Olympics. It's even more galling because London has sought to create the "first truly sustainable Olympic games."
An anti-greenwashing group pointed out that three major sponsors at these Olympic games -- Dow Chemical, Rio Tinto, and BP (NYSE: BP ) -- have one thing in common: legacies of environmentally irresponsible corporate behavior.
Monsanto's (NYSE: MON ) no stranger to environmental controversy, nor is Dow Chemical. Corporate ancestors related to Monsanto and Dow Chemical both were major manufacturers of Agent Orange. That's right, if you trace corporate family trees back far enough, you'll find both of these companies among the ones linked to the controversial defoliant.
Since the Vietnam War, millions in settlements have been paid out in lawsuits related to the adverse health effects due to the use and production of Agent Orange. Incidentally, Dow Chemical's website deflects responsibility by stating that the American government compelled it to produce Agent Orange for warfare purposes, but many are still seeking restitution.
New controversy's cropping up around Dow Chemical, Monsanto, and Agent Orange, too, as some critics fear that unhealthy genetically modified "Agent Orange corn" and other crops are coming to fields near you -- and some hapless farmers who could suffer from herbicide drift if they choose not to plant those crops. These controversial crops would be immune to herbicides in the Agent Orange family as Monsanto's weed-killing Roundup loses efficacy. Therefore, there could be a huge upswing in the use of herbicides related to Agent Orange, which many believe cause negative health effects. Will someone think of the children of the corn?
Back to Bhopal
Agent Orange has more common name recognition than Bhopal, but many of the themes are similar: health effects, poisoned environments, and corporate gymnastics to avoid blame or the assumption of financial liabilities while humans suffered.
Isaac Pino, Charlie Kannel, and Tom Gardner devised an idea truly worth buying into when it comes to helping the people of Bhopal. They suggested that Dow Chemical remedy its own poisoned reputation related to the incident by making a new stock offering, the proceeds of which would be used to create a fund to help remediate the area and provide health care for those who are still suffering adverse health effects.
As their article pointed out, shifting blame and pointing fingers helps controversies like this one drag on unresolved for decades. If anyone needs a refresher course on corporate blame games in the face of adverse situations, just think about the relatively recent Deepwater Horizon disaster and subsequent Gulf oil spill, and how BP, Halliburton (NYSE: HAL ) , and Transocean (NYSE: RIG ) spent a shameful period during the crisis blaming one another for the incident more than actually figuring out what to do.
Anyone who tracks such corporate controversies would also notice frequent misdirection in the form of entities connected to such environmental disasters spun off like problem children, disowned and unacknowledged.
Such behavior has been accepted as business as usual for far too long. After all, to many, this sounds like the way to boost profit, in the short term, anyway. This is how too many of our corporations and market participants completely lose the point of how a healthy global marketplace should work.
If Dow Chemical were to issue stock solely to raise capital to help alleviate the ongoing tragedy in Bhopal, I'd be willing to purchase a stake for my real-money portfolio to kick in some capital and show solidarity with the gesture. Responsibility includes trying to make the world a better place. Someone has to step up or everyone falls down.
Our marketplace should thrive because our corporations show the leadership needed to boost economic well-being for all, thereby showing the power of capitalism to improve life on this planet, not cripple it. Our marketplace should dedicate itself to solving more problems than creating them. And it should recognize that shifting blame and arguing solves absolutely nothing.
And of course, if Dow Chemical were to embark on this initiative, it would go a long way to improve long-term value at the company. Moving forward isn't about forgetting, it's about addressing. And creating long-term value is increasingly about much more than the near-term financial bottom line; it's about creating sustainable value in the world at large.