Making money and being socially responsible are not mutually exclusive. If you have a high level of ethics, that doesn’t mean that you have to either abandon your ethics or your will to make money.
There is this idea that to be successful financially that you have to be cutthroat and unemotional or you can forget about it. If you are somebody who cares about doing good in the world, but still wants to be successful financially, the good news is that it is entirely possible.
There are a lot of ways to make money these days so you can craft a portfolio that at least does no harm.
Whether you are investing for retirement or to just have money for the finer things in life, you should read on for the ways you can ethically invest.
What is Socially Responsible Investing?
On its face, socially responsible investing is when you do the research to find your best investment options in businesses that don’t act unsustainably towards the environment, government or socially.
This is also called sustainable investing as you are looking for business and investing opportunities that are not going to create problems while doing business. An example of this would be if you were to make sure that any funds you invest in wouldn’t be put into companies that are deforesting the Amazon, or fossil fuels. Those practices make the world less livable for everybody so any gains you may make would be at somebody’s expense either now or later.
In some cases, your investment portfolio will not only do no harm but can also bring about positive change. A renewable energy company will be putting people to work and also creating a better future for the planet by not contributing to global warming. Or, investing in a developing country’s infrastructure can help increase the quality of life of people living in impoverished areas.
How Does it Work?
The first step is to actually make the decision to not invest in companies that are harmful to society and the environment. Once this decision is made then you are already on the road to doing socially responsible investing.
But it does need to go a bit further than that. It helps to identify the areas in which you actually want to help. If you are concerned about the lives of people of color and would like a chance to help, then make sure that is on top of the list of your priorities.
If your passion is about the environment, then you should list the ways that you think the environment could benefit from good investments and focus your attention there.
By doing so, you will be able to find the funds that match your desires. There will be socially responsible investment funds that are sustainable, yet don’t align with your values. For instance, a fund may have divested itself from any company that is in mining or fossil fuels, but still has stock in companies that are used by dictators against their people.
When you have a list, then you have to find the funds that tick many of the same boxes of your list. It is unlikely that you can have a complete portfolio that is 100% to your liking as far as companies go, but it is a good start.
Can a SRI Portfolio Perform Well?
There is no reason why a sustainable investment strategy shouldn’t be able to make you as much money as one that doesn’t take social responsibility into account.
With the way things are headed when it comes to renewable energy, some of these funds may even outperform traditional portfolios. The green sector is booming and is proving to be a very wise investment. Some banks are divesting completely from fossil fuel-based businesses so this should be an indication that things are heading in the opposite direction.
When it comes to socially responsible investing, it can be trickier depending on how the fund is organized. By having some strict criteria about how the companies are organized in their management to include people of color, it may narrow the scope of the fund and make it complicated. This doesn’t make it a bad investment; it simply means that there is a possibility to make less money than if you didn’t have a strict set of criteria.
Decide How Much Help You Want
You have a choice of putting together your own portfolio so you can hunt down exactly the stocks you want to buy that align with your values, or finding an advisor that you trust to make the decisions for you.
In the first case, you are far more in control of how your investments will be made to make sure that you are only dealing with ethical institutions and will be able to sleep well knowing you are making a difference. The downside is that you will have to do a lot of research to make sure that businesses are actually doing the good they promote themselves as doing. There is a thing called greenwashing these days that makes it seem that they are being good stewards while doing the opposite.
The other option of finding an advisor will make your life easier, but you have to trust that they will actually find the types of stocks that will be acceptable to you. You give up some control, but it also frees up your time by allowing them to do the legwork for you.
As you can see, being a socially responsible investor is going to be a bit of a challenge, but in the end, it will help you feel good about the money that you make by knowing that the world is not in worse shape due to your investments.
If more people can do the same then we may see some real change in our lifetime.