NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If you think the Pope's recent comments are anti-capitalist, you might feel differently after considering the potential value in values-based investing.
"The faith-based investor has the longest investment time horizon: we're investing for eternity," said Laura Berry, executive director of the Interfaith Center of Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and Wall Street veteran.
The ICCR includes over 300 member organizations -- many of which are faith based -- and controls over $100 billion in investable assets. It uses shareholder resolutions and proxy fight as well as meetings with management to convince corporations to include social values in their business models.
Their sentiment is not unlike that of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who wrote in the 1988 Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) shareholder letter, "our favorite holding period is forever."
And there is compelling evidence that there is more to values-based leadership and investment than good feelings: It can also be a driver of long-term returns. Socially responsible indexes comprising companies that meet "environmental, social and governance" criteria perform on par with the S&P 500 and similar benchmarks on a return and risk basis.
"Socially responsible investing can achieve comparable performance over the long term without additional risk, despite using a smaller universe of securities" that meets such criteria, TIAA-CREF said in a report last September. Over a 10-year period ending in May 2014, TIAA-CREF found the MSCI KLD 400 Social Index, which tracks socially responsible domestic companies, returned 7.44% and experienced less volatility than the S&P 500, which returned 7.78%.
"One of the things that is always interesting and challenging is to channel the activist spirit, remembering that we are investors with fiduciary responsibilities to financial results," Berry said.
People attempting to generate wealth should keep in mind the "right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise," the Pope said in his congressional address on Thursday.