A new series of free online interviews with twelve leaders of the socially responsive investing movement is now rolling out, with one new interview available each Tuesday. The “Women Invested” series is hosted by our Natural Investments colleagues Malaika Maphalala and Carrie Van Winkle.
The diverse line-up of guests ranges from managers of capital management firms Green Century Capital and Trillium Asset Management to community investing champions from Calvert Foundation and Nia Community, the co-owners of Namasté Solar, the farm manager at Iroquois Valley Farms, and many others.
Check out the Women Invested site for full bios of all the featured guests as well for both audio and video versions of the interviews. You can also click through here for a preview of the bios.
Did you know that despite the lack of any federal laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination, three-quarters of Fortune 500 companies have policies in place to do just that? The “S” part of corporate ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) standards and SRI (Socially Responsible Investing) has been coming alive in increasingly dynamic ways in recent years.
This year, as three southern states passed laws that actively codified anti-LGBT discrimination, some of the loudest—and most effective—voices raised against these initiatives came from large companies. As summarized by The New Yorker:
Last month, executives at more than eighty companies—including Apple, Pfizer, Microsoft, and Marriott—signed a public letter to the governor of North Carolina urging him to repeal the state’s new law. Lionsgate Studio is moving production of a new sitcom out of the state, Deutsche Bank cancelled plans to create new jobs there, and PayPal has cancelled plans for a global operations center. In Mississippi, G.E., Pepsi, Dow, and others attacked the law there as “bad for our employees and bad for business.” Disney said that it would stop making movies in Georgia, which has become a major venue for film production, if the governor signed the bill. Something similar happened last year in Indiana, after the state passed a religious-freedom law allowing businesses to discriminate against L.G.B.T. customers and employees. At least a dozen business conventions relocated.
The article goes on to look at the ways this leadership by corporate interests upends both progressive and conservative orthodoxy. Progressives often decry the influence of business on government decision-making, but this time it’s a welcome addition to grassroots voices against regressive new state laws. Meanwhile, as the New Yorker’s James Surowiecki notes, “to many conservative business leaders, today’s social-conservative agenda looks anachronistic and is harmful to the bottom line; it makes it hard to hire and keep talented employees who won’t tolerate discrimination.”
Though we’ve long been champions of the idea that business can play a key role in reshaping society in positive ways, this vocal leadership on perhaps the leading social justice issue of the day is a welcome surprise.
Not along ago, we were introduced to Brad Kaellner, a kindred spirit who is engaging in the world of investing from a foundation in permaculture. He recently did a solid brief review of our book, which he called “a relatively short book with a big vision,” and noted:
My favorite chapter was “Tales of Resilient Living” where the three authors share how they use the Resilient Investing Map to guide their unique investment plans based on their personal outlooks and personalities.
Returning the favor, we’d like to say that Brad’s Permaculture Investor website is a valuable resource, especially for those new to investing or to adding a social and environmental overlay to their investment decisions. He’s studying to become an SRI financial advisor, and shares what he’s learning, as well as accessible overviews of investing strategies; he also pokes around in the dirt a bit, shedding light on some of the lessons he’s learned as he tries to more fully align his money-making decisions with his values. We look forward to following his journey!
We’re psyched that this month’s Financial Advisor magazine includes a feature on our company, Natural Investments, under the title Rebels With a Cause. It provides a solid overview of what we do and why we do it. The author spoke with Michael and Christopher, along with two of our long-time NI colleagues, Susan Taylor and Scott Secrest, about the expansion of the company over the past couple of decades. As Michael explained, “We get approached periodically (by advisors who would like to join the company) and we’re very selective because we want to make sure it’s the right fit with our very small company. The people we bring on really have to walk their talk and not just see this as business. We want people where this is really core to who they are because clients want us to be leaders in social and environmental change. ”
And Susan expressed our core purpose very well here:
We’re in this industry where standard Wall Street thought has, in my opinion, defined capitalism in an extreme way. And we have lots of clients who are longtime activists and social critics who question whether they should even be in the stock market. We live between those two perspectives.
I think extreme capitalism, where profit is the only thing that matters, isn’t the way capitalism was intended. Our planet and social structure can’t survive with that version of capitalism. That’s not sustainable in the long run on a social or mental health model, or any way you look at it. How do we take what works with capitalism and make it better, and make sure human and environmental health have a priority that supersedes profits? Yes, profits matter, but it can’t matter exclusively.
Co-author Christopher Peck was recently interviewed by Pat Lynch of WomensRadio, in advance of his upcoming talk at the San Francisco Green Festival. In a nice concise thirteen minutes, he introduces the core principles of resilient investing and offers a quick overview of his career as a holistic financial planner. Listen below, or on the WomensRadio site.
Michael Kramer also offers a great, brief overview in a recent interview at the Sustainability Unconference in his home state of Hawaii; click through to hear his summary of the system, and take a look at this short article that illustrates the system as well. Stay tuned to the end to witness the historic first utterance of what’s sure to become a major socio-philosophical movement (or Muppet character?) when Scott Mooney of Triple Pundit dubs Michael an “apolocaloptimist!”
Here’s a piece of good news that’s flown under the radar: sustainability-oriented companies are rapidly becoming mainstream leaders of the corporate world. Nine companies have crossed the billion-dollars-a-year threshold in annual revenues, and several more are not far behind. E. Freya Williams, whose recently-released book Green Giants looks at the traits and qualities that these companies share, proclaims that sustainability-driven firms are no longer “going up against with the big boys. They are the big boys.” And not surprisingly, they’ve been performing like gangbusters:
A recent piece in BloombergBusiness caught our eye: Giving Hippies Key to Portfolio is Not Such a Bad Idea After All. Not to say we told you so, but have you heard the one about Hal, Guatemalan shorts, and phone trades back in the day? Indeed, champions of SRI have always had reassuring results to point to, but in recent months, we’re no longer shouting against the roar of business as usual’s river of denial. A series of long-term trends reports have all come to similar conclusions: companies that embrace environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations outperform their more traditional peers. The chart at the top of this post is a good sample, showing two different strategies for choosing more ESG-engaged companies; over the past 7-8 years, doing so has outperformed average returns by a cumulative 12-24%. While we appreciated Bloomberg’s decision to publish our 1999 book, Investing With Your Values, we’re even more glad to see them, along with Morgan Stanley and the Harvard Business School, getting on the bus.
Michael Kramer’s 45 minute television interview with Jay Fidell of Think Tech Hawaii covers the core themes of The Resilient Investor as well as the sustainable, responsible, and impact investment approach used by Natural Investments.