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Staying informed

New tool lets investors scrutinize funds for weapons companies

The website weaponfreefunds.org details funds with investments in weapons.

Plan sponsors and participants who want to know whether the mutual funds in their retirement plans have direct stock holdings in gun manufacturers, weapons retailers and military contractors can find out via Weapon Free Funds, a new online tool from non-profit groups As You Sow and CODEPINK.

The free, searchable database, which went live in June, covers 3,000 commonly used U.S. mutual funds and exchange-traded funds from managers such as Vanguard Group Inc., Fidelity Investments and BlackRock (BLK) Inc. (BLK)

Each fund's profile contains information on the total number of holdings, dollar amount and percentage of the fund's assets that are invested in weapons companies, if any, along with a breakdown of the individual weapons companies the fund owns. Information is provided by Morningstar Inc.

The database also provides information on alternative funds that avoid investments in the weapons industry and a sample letter for participants who want their employers to offer weapons-free fund options. Fund data are expected to be updated monthly.

Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow in Oakland, Calif., said the group plans to go live with a gender equality funds tool in November that will look for, among other things, gender balance, or lack thereof, on companies' boards and executive teams.

The group already has tools that focus on fossil fuels, deforestation and tobacco and is in the process of adding information on fund performance to its databases, Mr. Behar said.

As You Sow promotes corporate environmental and social responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building and legal strategies, according to its website.

CODEPINK is a women-led organization that works to end U.S. wars and militarism, according to its website.

The database is funded by contributions from foundations and individuals; Mr. Behar declined to identify the foundations.