Investing with a conscience
What if you could make money and help change the world at the same time? That's the premise behind sustainable or socially responsible investing (SRI).
Socially responsible investing is a progressive way of using your money, pooled with that of other investors, to add value to your portfolio and look to improve the future. It's a strategy where social good is just as important as financial return. And it's easier to do than you might think.
The first step is to share your values with your investment advisor. Once your investment professional knows that environmental, social and governance performance are as important to you as financial gains when choosing an investment, he or she can recommend funds that meets those objectives.
The Ethical Funds Company family of funds, for instance, was started by credit unions more than 15 years ago to provide members with more choice about which industries they did–and more importantly did not–want to invest in.
Back in the early days, the company focused on avoiding investments related to nuclear energy, weapons manufacturing, and tobacco.
Today, Ethical Funds also evaluates companies on the basis of their social and environmental performance, as well as their management systems. It's a system that looks at everything from good employee relations and strong records of community involvement, to progressive environmental policies and procedures.
The company is also known for having a robust shareholder action plan. Simply put, you can't change a company you don't own.
Owning shares in a company brings powerful shareholder rights – a voice in reshaping the way it does business. If a company's shareholders band together and ask management to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, or ensure workers in its overseas factories are fairly treated, management has to listen.
Enough money and enough pressure put in the right directions can, indeed, bring about these results.
Thus, the power of shareholder action lies not in avoiding companies with poor practices, but by helping to improve them. Visit the Ethical Funds website and you'll find all kinds of stories about how pressure from Ethical Funds, on behalf of investors, helped to make good companies better by adopting new policies on climate change and human rights.