Could you explain what socially responsible investing is?
Socially responsible investing is investing in stocks, bonds and certificates of deposit with the idea that you're not just looking for the best financial return, but you're also--at the same time--wanting to target that money to work in companies and investments that meet your own important values. ... In general, we're looking at companies that produce products and services that help the environment, help the planet and help culture. Then we're looking at how these institutions and businesses work--the internal workings of those companies. How do they treat their employees? Is there a fair wage? Are CEOs taking the profits for themselves and giving what's left over to employees? We're looking at minority representation on the boards. How are they connected in their own communities? ... Maybe there are companies that are giving time off for their employees to help in the community.
It's broad in scope, but I can just tell you that 99 percent of social investors--if not 100 percent--would list the environment as a high priority, because they're concerned about the planet. Almost as many would talk about food--you know, natural foods and that sort of thing. So socially responsible investing is taking your own cares and concerns and intersecting it with your money. You have a great return on one hand, but also a great social return on the other. You combine both; it's a win-win.
Is this something a lot of people are doing? I've heard them talk about this on NPR, and they had a financial adviser who was giving pointers to callers on how to invest in green companies, etc. Are a lot of people waking up to this idea?
I can compare it to 10 years ago. I started doing this in 1989, and I was one of the first pioneers, really. ... I joined First Affirmative Financial (Network), out of Colorado, and there were about 30 of us around the country. But now--oh my goodness--the phone is ringing. I don't have to go searching for people; they're calling. So the interest is high. I think lately, a number of factors are playing in this. Definitely, there's a political play on this, where people are concerned about what they can do. If the vote isn't making the change that they want, something else has to happen. So they're thinking: How can I change my lifestyle to make a difference? So you're seeing more volunteerism around the country--that's for sure. But now you're also seeing people looking at their money and where their investments are. They're really starting to think that maybe they can make a change through money.
What kinds of resources are out there to help people decide about this sort of stuff? Are there Web sites and books? Is there a whole cottage industry for green investing?
There's a cottage industry, and like anything else, some (resources) are very good, and other sources I wink at, because I wonder what their motives are. Some positive places to go would be the Social Investment Forum and their Web site. The Social Investment Forum is a place for individuals and advisers who are interested in a social investing network. We find it's a great resource. ... If someone's a social investor, but it's not just their money--they're looking at where to shop--then there's the National Green Pages put out by Co-op America. Co-op America is a great resource for consumers. This publication lists socially responsible businesses, banking institutions, mutual funds, advisers. It's a national networking of businesses and organizations. Co-op America is nonprofit, and it's consumer-oriented.
There seems to be a community aspect to this whole thing--getting networked in this socially conscious community.
Yeah, there's a network. People know that they can leverage their impact by linking arms with other people. All over the world, there are organizations. The Social Investment Forum has a Canadian branch, and there are other international organizations that are promoting and networking. I'd say it's a cooperative adventure, and it's fun. I love what I do.