Followers of our Foolanthropy campaigns may remember that we raised money for an organization called Co-op America in a previous campaign. I've followed the organization with interest since then, because it has been instrumental in getting companies to do the right thing. Among its profiles of various businesses are seven corporations that it thinks you may want to avoid:

  • Gap (NYSE:GPS): For allegedly using child labor.
  • Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM): For scoring badly on its lack of commitment to reversing climate change.
  • Disney (NYSE:DIS): For alleged sweatshop abuses in China.
  • General Electric (NYSE:GE): For owning contaminated Superfund sites.
  • Nestle: For polluting, and for generating plastic-water-bottle waste.
  • L.L. Bean: For allegedly engaging in unsafe labor practices.
  • DuPont (NYSE:DD) For being America's top polluter, according to the Political Economy Research Institute.

This makes me think of two things: First, although these companies clearly have some knocks against them (but what company is perfect, in a socially responsible manner, anyway?), most also do some real good in the world.

GE, for example, is developing alternative-energy technologies, in wind-power generation, diesel-electric hybrid locomotives, and aircraft engines and appliances that run more efficiently, to name just a few. DuPont, by 2000, had reduced its greenhouse-gas emissions by around 45% of its 1990 baseline levels. Gap has an extensive website devoted to its socially responsible activities, such as improving factory conditions.

Here's my other thought: Though most companies do a combination of good and bad in the world, if you really want to be a good socially responsible investor, you might want to determine whether the good outweighs the bad, and whether the momentum favors the good or bad. You can also take action by letting the company know your thoughts. If you don't like hearing about L.L. Bean's Jordanian factory, write to the company and let it know. There's always a chance that you'll hear back and that the company will take action based on your opinion.

Meanwhile, I invite you to join with us in supporting Foolanthropy -- by which we hope to rid the world of financial illiteracy.

Learn more
If you'd like to learn more about socially responsible investing, here are some articles on the topic:

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of General Electric and Yum! Brands. Gap is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Gap and Walt Disney are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Try our investing newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.