30 Days Towards Sustainability

Day 12: Invest in green and socially just enterprises.

"Where your treasure is, there also will be your heart." This bit of ancient wisdom is very relevant today. Many of us have retirement funds and other investments. I have 4% of my pay deducted for a retirement fund and my employer matches that with 5%, so 9% of my income goes into a retirement fund. I can choose among several different mutual funds to invest this money.

Not a single one of these funds has anything to do with the local economy or does any social or environmental screening of the companies invested in.

Memo to Bob: Write a letter to the head office and point out the virtue and the necessity of socially just and environmentally aware and local region investing.

The problem isn't a lack of choices for the managers of the retirement fund offered at my work. According to

http://www.bloggingstocks.com/2006/09/05/socially-responsible-investing-a-primer/ (Or http://tinyurl.com/kjlml )

there are 221 mutual funds that can be described as "socially responsible", managing $229 trillion in assets, this is about 10% of all investment funds.

All SRI funds have some kind of screening process and criteria. The Social Investment Forum website has a page which compares the screening criteria of its member funds in these areas: alcohol, tobacco, gambling, weapons, animal testing, products/services, environment, human rights, labor relations, employment/equality, community investment. http://www.socialinvest.org/Areas/SRIGuide/mfsc.cfm

One aspect of socially responsible investing is providing venture capital to new enterprises with innovative ideas and products that meet environmental and/or social justice needs.

Returns on socially responsible investments are competitive with returns of regular mutual funds.

Advocates of SRI sometimes speak of the "triple bottom line" - investment to achieve returns in social justice, finances, and environmental care.

As with any investment, research is essential, and the Internet provides a lot of tools. Taking personal responsibility for our choices, including our financial and investment selections, is a critical aspect of the journey towards sustainability.

As I am writing this, I am reminded of one of the problems those of us working on a local food system face here in Oklahoma. Banks will rarely loan money to farmers to transition to local marketing and organic production. It seems to me that we need to invent/create some kind of financial structure to provide alternative methods of financing this need. Folks reading this who work in the financial industry could give the development of local organic agriculture a big boost by coming up with some innovative ways/structures to meet this need. Perhaps the Oklahoma Food Cooperative should start the Oklahoma Food Credit Union?

More info resources:

http://www.socialinvest.org/Areas/SRIGuide/ Start here. "Introduction to Socially Responsible Investing", from the Social Investment Forum, a non-profit membership organization promoting socially responsible investment.

http://www.csrwire.com/ , the "Corporate Social Responsibility" newswire

http://www.business-ethics.com/network.htm Corporate social responsibility report

http://www.investorscircle.net/index.php "Patient capital for a sustainable future"

http://www.ecosustainable.com.au/links.htm Lots of SRI links

Bob Waldrop, Oklahoma City

http://www.bettertimesinfo.org

http://www.oklahomafood.coop

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These tips may be freely forwarded, credit for authorship is appreciated. They are posted online at http://www.energyconservationinfo.org/30days.htm .