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Wednesday, June 02, 2004
Peacewashing MMA
For many years, environmentalists have used the term greenwashing to describe companies who talk one thing and do another. Perhaps its time we coined the term peacewashing. In the June 1 issue of The Mennonite, Michael Shank has an article talking about just how socially responsible Mennonite Mutual Aid's investments really are.

Apparently, their top "socially responsible" investments from last year were McDonalds, Clear Channel Communications, Kraft, Coca-Cola and Weyerhaeuser. Compare these companies and practices with the list of "six core values" that supposedly govern MMA's "stewardship investing":

  1. Respect the dignity and value of all people.
  2. Build a world at peace and free from violence.
  3. Demonstrate a concern for justice in a global society.
  4. Exhibit responsible management practices.
  5. Support and involve communities.
  6. Practice environmental stewardship.

When Shank called in to point out that Weyerhaeuser was heavily involved in the logging of old growth forests and clearcutting, the MMA rep tried to defend Weyerhaeuser's corporate practices. So much for share-holder advocacy!

It's clear that MMA has moved from being a church agency to being a insurance and investment firm that sees Mennonites as its target market. They exploit the term "socially responsible" (not to mention "Mennonite" and its wholesome image) to lure investors and assuage the consciences of their investors. At the end of the day, however, it's clear that the most important thing for them is their financial performance

In the end, what I find most sad and ironic is that its been Mennonites of all people who take the liberating concept of mutual aid, squandered all its revolutionary and egalitarian potential and turned it into just another corporate brand.

P.S. If you want to read more about MMA's slide from church agency to sleek corporation, check out Keith Graber Miller's article in Building Communities of Compassion: Mennonite Mutual Aid in Theory

P.P.S. If you're not completely cynical and thing there still might be hope for MMA, you should definitely call them and tell them so. They're toll-free number is 1-800-348-7468 and their e-mail is

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