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Sunday, March 18, 2007

SOUND OFF: LIVING UP TO OUR IDEALS

I asked readers whether it matters that some of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's endowment is invested in businesses, such as oil companies, that pollute the air and cause some of the health problems that the foundation seeks to cure. Most believed that it does matter.

"Foundations should make sure that they don't invest in companies that run programs against their core values and mission," Tomasz Babula of Glendale Heights, Ill., writes.

"The bottom line is that they want to help people," writes Susan Hammond of Irvine, Calif., "and that is a good thing. But perhaps they can begin to make any necessary corrections in their investments by looking at the most egregious conflicts of interest and work through the rest from there over a period of time."

"Gates' power to make companies better is as great, if not greater, then his ability to make his projects -- immunization etc. -- better," writes E. Carroll Straus of Orange County, Calif. "To say that they do not have such power ... is simply to misstate the facts, and the harm that some of his supported investments do is very great indeed."

Check out other opinions at http://jeffreyseglin.blogspot.com/2007/02/sound-off-actions-and-deeds.html or post your own by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of "The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business" (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of http://www.jeffreyseglin.com, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@nytimes.com or to "The Right Thing," New York Times Syndicate, 609 Greenwich St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10014-3610.

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