by Cliff Feigenbaum, GreenMoney founder and publisher
As we celebrate our special 20th Anniversary Year, the media and individuals often ask me why and how I started the GreenMoney Journal (GMJ). I have often shared a story that began when I worked in a large regional hospital in the Northwest. After working and saving for several years I found that the mutual funds in my 401(k) plan held stock in tobacco companies, which seemed contradictory for a healthcare institution. As I brought it to the attention of the hospital CFO I realized that I personally was having trouble making well-informed and ethical financial decisions. An editor friend and I researched and then wrote an article on Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), and much to our pleasant surprise, the local business weekly published it. Click below for more of the GMJ story.
Now here’s another of those good surprises: in January I was named to The Top 100 List of Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business for 2013. You can learn more about this award from the Trust Across America organization in our February 2013 issue on our website.
In this Spring 2013 issue you will find another set of great articles, including the continuing series of ICONS Interviews. This one is a discussion between Bennett Freeman of Calvert Investments and Rebecca Adamson of First Peoples Worldwide about the energy and extractives industries to which we are so addicted to in the US and around the world. Next our friend Woody Tasch updates us on his growing organization-Slow Money-and its goal of bringing money back to earth, literally. In these times we need financial organizations with positive community impact-here you will learn about Santa Fe-based Homewise, whose programs should be replicated across the country. Homewise helps qualified people get into their first homes with innovative and financially responsible solutions. We close with a very thorough SRI Trends Report, which comes out every two years on the financial totals, as well as investing and shareholder trends, in Sustainable and Responsible Investing by the US SIF.
Rebecca Adamson of First Peoples Worldwide Interviews
Bennett Freeman of Calvert Investments
Welcome to the sixth edition of GreenMoney’s Icons Interview Series, where we invite Sustainable Investment and Business leaders to interview other leaders in their field. This issue features Rebecca Adamson, Founder and President of First Peoples Worldwide. She is a leader, activist, and groundbreaking indigenous woman, who holds a distinct perspective on how indigenous people’s values and economic systems can transform today’s business models. Rebecca interviews Bennett Freeman who as Senior Vice President for Sustainability Research and Policy at Calvert Investments, leads the environmental, social and governance (ESG) analysis, shareholder advocacy and public policy work of the largest family of sustainable and responsible (SRI) mutual funds in the U.S with over $12 billion assets under management.
Both Rebecca and Bennett have been true leaders for many years. They continue to help us make money responsibly and make a real difference in our world. Here is the interview…
REBECCA: What changes have you seen in SRI and ESG since you joined Calvert seven years ago and how do those changes position the sustainable investment community for the future?
BENNETT: I came to Calvert in April of 2006 in a springtime of optimism and opportunity in the SRI world. Assets subject to some form of screening were rising. Our longstanding proposition that corporate responsibility and sustainability benefit investors as well as business and society was finally gaining wider acceptance and greater traction. The combination of years of steady engagement and at times pressure from SRI firms, faith-based investors and NGOs – had compelled major companies in virtually every industry from footwear and apparel to oil and mining to at least acknowledge, if not fully address, the range of critical issues raised by shareholders and other stakeholders. While companies were at least managing risk to their brands, the momentum of the game was shifting from defense to offense.
When the financial crisis hit in mid-2008, the validation of our concerns over inadequate regulation of the financial markets and management of risk at the big banks were little consolation in the face of plunging assets and economic meltdown on both sides of the Atlantic. While the Dodd-Frank reforms are slowly being implemented and the Occupy movement’s demands have (for the moment) dissipated, our values and views gained validation. SRI more than survived; it demonstrated its resilience and growing relevance in a 21st century world that will be increasingly defined by the imperative of sustainability and the demand for accountability.
That growing relevance, in my view, is based on two significant changes over the last half dozen years that should give us renewed confidence in the future of sustainable and responsible investment.
The first change is a growing confidence on our part-and recognition on the part of traditional mainstream investors-that our wide-angle lens view of the world helps us see around corners and over horizons in ways that others have not.