You can use SRI to help you meet your financial goals, like growing your savings while ensuring that your money has a positive impact on people and the planet.
Socially concerned investors generally seek to own shares of profitable companies that are transparent about their operations, have strong records of community involvement, positive environmental impact policies and practices, respect for human rights around the world, and create safe and useful products. They will also try to avoid investments in those firms that fall short in these areas.
You, or your financial advisor or asset management firm if you have one, can screen stocks, mutual funds, and other investments on the issues that matter to you.
For specific information on the screening and advocacy practices of socially responsible mutual funds, visit USSIF's Mutual Fund Performance Chart.
Myth: Socially responsible investments make less money than conventional ones.
Fact: The evidence, amassed through hundreds of studies, shows that historically, SRI products have performed as well as or better than their conventional counterparts.
Before buying shares, read the prospectus (document with details about the fund) to understand the risks.
Divestment is when investors drop their shares in a company or remove funds from a bank in order to make a statement and to re-align their investments with their values for longer-term benefit. Divestment campaigns launched against a company can make corporate management take notice and change company policy since divestment represents a potential drop in share prices and loss of revenue.
In the 1990s, activists convinced companies to divest from business in South Africa to put pressure on that government to abolish apartheid. That campaign was hugely successful and gave rise to modern divestment movements. In recent years, university students in the US and internationally have demanded their schools divest from fossil fuels in a variety of ongoing campaigns, resulting in at least 108 schools committed to divesting their endowments. Some cities and countries, as well as philanthropies and other institutions, have also committed to divesting their assets from fossil fuels companies. Beginning in 2016, divestment was used by protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline, who asked individuals and cities to remove their investments from the 17 national and international banks giving loans to the building company.
Beyond your own investments
Every organization, faith congregation, school, or workplace needs a bank account. You can help steer more money into underserved communities, and into local economies, by encouraging any of the organizations you're a part of to switch to a better bank and shift investment funds into community investing options.
Or, you may be able to become involved with the larger holdings of your religious denomination if it belongs to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). Bringing together investors across many faiths (Catholic, Episcopalian, Jewish, Mennonite, and more), ICCR members leverage the combined $100 billion of their investment portfolios to sponsor shareholder resolutions on climate change, the use of sweatshops, human rights, and other crucial issues. To check whether your denomination is a part of ICCR, visit its website.
Want your retirement to work for the world? Here are tools on how to encourage your workplace to adopt socially responsible options into regular retirement contribution accounts.