Climate change hasn’t always been terribly high on my list of concerns. Don’t get me wrong, I believed the science, but it had been a selfish, somewhat conscious choice to ignore dealing with something I was pretty sure wouldn’t greatly affect me. I’ve lived in Santa Monica, where the beach is vast, and in Pasadena, where the sun shines hot, and I could never envision a time where either would become undesirable, let alone unlivable.
My wife, Alyssa, began her career preparing for and responding to natural disasters, first in California, then in a similar role with the U.S. government at FEMA, which moved us to Washington, D.C. She dealt with fires in the West, hurricanes in the Northeast, and tornados in the Midwest. She even traveled to Japan to understand the impact of their disastrous tsunami in March 2011. Throughout her 15 years working on climate and conservation issues, she’s spent innumerous hours educating governments and businesses alike on the perils of increasing temperatures and global sea-level rise.
While I once may have felt captive to these data-dense presentation rehearsals, I came to first merely absorb, but later to seek, the alarming data she was gathering. It was then that I began to make the inevitable connections between her professional world and mine. I thought, “I’m likely investing in companies that do the same damage my wife is devoting her career to remedying. Could I invest and make money in companies that were doing less harm? Or even some good? Environment can’t be the only social issue affected by investing. Could I make even a small impact by limiting exposure to companies that profit in guns, tobacco, child labor, etc.?”
I’ve devoted an increasing amount of free time over recent years to the pursuit of educating myself in the nuances of socially conscious investing and marrying my values to my own personal investment choices. At Morton Capital, we’ve been deeply involved in our local communities and charities and offering investments in socially conscious funds for years. True to our mission and investment philosophy, I’m proud that we consistently seek knowledge and resources that allow our clients to pursue these investments at our firm.
When I introduce my clients to the concept of investing with their heads AND their hearts, I begin, as below, by exploring some of the broader definitions and themes. I also ensure that I address some common misconceptions associated with socially conscious investing. I most commonly see that people think that socially conscious investing means having to sacrifice returns, or that they are more expensive and harder to access. And while not all investments will be available or appropriate for every investor, I find it helpful to address multiple disciplines within the socially conscious investing realm to help provide more insight into the wide variety of strategies that exist. Below are three commonly implemented ones, listed from broader value-focused strategies to those purely focused on impact.
ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance):
This common strategy evaluates companies based on how well they are managing the various environmental, social, and corporate governance issues they face in their businesses. A top-down ESG investment strategy invests in companies that rate highly in environmental, social, and governance factors while still maintaining a focus on the returns and associated risks.
SRI (Socially Responsible Investing):
Socially responsible investing goes one step further than ESG by actively eliminating or selecting investments according to specific ethical guidelines. The underlying motive could be religion, personal values, or political beliefs. Unlike ESG analysis, which shapes valuations, SRI uses ESG factors to apply negative or positive screens to the broader investment universe.
In impact or thematic investing, positive outcomes are of the utmost importance—meaning the investments need to have a positive social or environmental impact in some way. The objective of impact investing is to help a business or organization accomplish specific goals that are beneficial to society or the environment. One example might be investing in a nonprofit dedicated to the research and development of clean energy, regardless of whether success is guaranteed.
As I mentioned, there are many more strategies associated with socially conscious investing than I’ve listed above, evidence of how seriously the investment world is paying attention to not only climate change but social impact as well. Investing with your head AND your heart can and will shape the future of investing as we know it. Knowing how to invest is only the beginning
This summary is for informational purposes only. It should not be taken as a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any individual security or asset class. This document expresses the views of the author and such views are subject to change without notice. Morton Capital makes no representation that the strategies described are suitable or appropriate for any person.
All investments involve the risk of loss, including the loss of principal. Past performance is not indicative of future returns. A Fund’s concentration in a certain sector and lack of diversification across other sectors present risks specific to its strategy and should be carefully considered. You should consult with your financial advisor to thoroughly review all information and consider all ramifications before implementing any transactions and/or strategies concerning your finances.