As the world literally heats up, we are witnessing increased environmental pressures all over the planet. Fortunately, people are coming up with creative ways to tackle these problems. The impulse to solve these issues can manifest in the decisions that we as consumers make. The choice to buy products from companies that may align with your values, while trying to leave a sustainable world for the next generation, represents a choice that speaks to what is important for us as individuals.
Unfortunately, we often forgo these values when it comes to choosing what to invest our money in. This is based on the erroneous view that investing in companies that are ethical or sustainable will hurt your bottom line. Steve Schueth of First Affirmative Financial Network has been working hard to reverse this misconception by presenting the only things that matter in the world of investing: quantifiable stats, ROI, and a track record. “There’s a lot of literature out there, and a number of studies that report comparisons between high sustainability companies and low sustainability companies, especially in the same industry groups. And the high sustainability companies are on average more profitable, probably because they are better managed,” Schueth explains.
“There are more and more investment companies that are embracing what used to be kind of a fringe concept: making money and making a difference with your money. That’s a big attraction for investors,” Schueth continues. This has drawn a large number of investors who care about the environmental impact that the companies they choose to invest in have in the world. Increasingly, this emphasis on sustainability has touched issues like water conservation, as well as how employees and communities in the third world are treated by companies that have a presence on the ground.
This exercise in “economic democracy” where we vote with our dollars is causing companies to take notice. Almost every major corporation now has a Sustainability Officer, whose mission is to find ways that the company can find solutions to become more sustainable. This can be in simple ways like replacing light bulbs with LEDs, to more complex supply chain solutions that cut down on waste. As evidenced by the turnout at conferences like Sustainable Brands, companies as diverse as Ford, BASF, and Eileen Fisher are focused on making business greener.
This change inspired Steve to help create The SRI Conference (on sustainable, responsible impact, investing). The 27th annual SRI Conference was held in Denver last year. “We’ve been, for a long time, a central gathering place for investors and investment professionals who are looking to invest in companies that are helping to create a truly sustainable future,” Schueth says. Making money while not sacrificing your values is a combination that is hard to argue against.