I love when disparate elements converge. Yesterday, a twitter pal asked for info on investing ethically. Today is Blog Action Day and the topic is Climate Change. (check out Gordon Brown’s blog post on the topic, or The White House’s post, er, but they’re not much better than mine – wicked grin) And the rapidly melting polar ice-caps made the news again – of much greater significance to me now that I live in Yellowknife.
Combine these, et voila: How could I *not* post about how I factor in eco-ethics in my investment choices for Blog Action Day? (transparency: I’m drawing on an article I had originally published in Shared Vision magazine)
Disclaimer! Disclaimer! I am not a financial advisor (see masthead). This is how I approach my personal investment choices. Do your own research, or hire a financial planner. This isn’t investment advice!
OK then. Here goes.
So I saw The Corporation, I saw Inconvenient Truth, and I know about how Halliburton is this really evil company and so is Monsanto. It’s enough to make you swear off investing forever, and in fact one woman in my (former) investment club did just that.
“It’s all dirty!” she cried, “I’m outta here” (or words to that effect). I empathize.
There’s little old me with my middle-class income on the one hand. There’s great big planet-screwing corporations we love to hate on the other. And somehow I need to bridge the two if I hope to retire in a manner to which my dachshunds are accustomed. I need to leverage my money off the initiatives of the c-word entities in order to become the multi-millionaire I aim for (yes, really. And don’t laugh – my tiny loft in gastown may just do it all on its own if the real estate insanity continues.)
Here are 3 approaches to building our wealth and keeping our consciences, as well as the planet, clean.
1. Get comfortable with wealth. Many of us with a strong ethical orientation carry deep in our hearts a quiet distaste for wealth in general. The last thing we want to do is participate in inequity, when there are kids not getting the basic nutrition they need.
Here’s how I handle it. No bones about it: I want to become a wealthy (in the bank account sense of the word) woman. I believe that if there’s money floating around out there in the world – and there is! – I’d like to be one of the people directing its flow. Unless my own values change, I’m quite sure that a million here or there in my own portfolio will be directed towards initiatives that I want to see thrive because they’re doing something good in the world. And I bet a million or two in your portfolio would be similarly directed.
2. Get comfortable in bed with imperfect corporations. Consider this: Just like within the mix of humans, there are in fact some lousy corporations, but also some pretty wonderful corporations (I have a crush on – and invest in – Apple for example), and just like humans, even the good ones may have asymmetries, areas where they screw up until someone calls them on it (like Apple who got their knuckles rapped about their lack of commitment to the environment, and has since had a remarkable turnaround). Let’s allow for that – a measure of imperfection that we can live with.
3. Let’s work on changing from the inside rather than critiquing from the outside. I’m not suggesting we take on the truly dreadful companies, of course. But if there’s a company that’s doing well, but with an area or two that could use improvement, let’s support what they’re doing right, and use our shareholders’ votes to move it further in a good direction. Individually, our few votes may not hold a whole lot of sway (although never underestimate the power of one!) but collectively, if those of us with like minds start purchasing up shares, we may be stronger than we dream of. A great example of this is the Interfaith Centre for Corporate Responsibility. Sister Daly had a legendary exchanges with GE CEO J. Welch regarding the polluted Hudson River, culminating in GE paying to clean up the river. So be strong! As a shareholder, you have every right to request the company you own take climate change seriously and examine its operations accordingly.
There you have it – my general approach to this investing ethically business. In the coming week, I’ll review a couple of the companies I own and how they stack up vis a vis our planet earth. Readers – any of you have investments you feel good about? Care to share?