For a long time, money used for good will was called charity, while money used to make more money was called investing. No more.
Today, the two ideas are coming together in a financial avenue called socially responsible investing. And both investors and mutual fund operators are learning that this new idea can be profitable, and do some good for the environment and society at the same time.
“Socially responsible investing means you don’t have to compromise your own personal beliefs to make money on Wall Street… whatever those beliefs are,” states Bob Guthrie, who is an investment broker with A.G. Edwards in Burlington, Vt.
Guthrie says that the idea of selectively choosing stocks for social reasons dates back to the early 1900’s. That’s when church members grouped together and refused to invest in tobacco or alcohol companies. He adds that the trend continued with investors ignoring corporations involved in the Vietnam War and those companies investing in South Africa.
But growth in this form of selective investing has skyrocketed during the past couple of years as more and more individuals and corporations have moved social and environmental consciousness into the mainstream of their investments. And this impact is being felt worldwide.
Rob Kruger, vice president of portfolio management at Progressive Asset Management says that with help from stockholders, business practices concerning the environment are starting to change. He said while the issues may vary, companies are realizing they will suffer if they aren’t viewed as being socially and environmentally responsible.
“As this investing community continues to grow, a lot of proposals are being put forth by investors at annual shareholder meetings,” Kruger said. “A whole range of issues and activities is now being addressed.”
As part of its operational procedures, Progressive Asset Management conducts research for eco-friendly and socially responsible mutual funds. The firm filters out companies for environmental problems or nuclear involvement or whatever issues their clients are concerned about.
“As time flies, companies are becoming more and more cooperative with us,” Kruger said. “Many of them are now very eager to talk about these social and environmental issues.”
Guthrie agrees that business practices are changing and says American companies are aware of shareholders who are concerned with the environment.
“Make sure your hard-earned capital is not invested in companies with little concern for the environment,” he advises. “Keep these things in mind when you invest and corporations will, too.
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