Women’s investments can do ‘double duty’

Ann Alexander

On some cellular level, women understand the transformative power of well-targeted donations.  That’s why women are such generous philanthropists.

Imagine the tremendous influence women could have if they also leveraged their investments in a way they could address many of the same issues as their philanthropic focus, while at the same time earning financial returns

That’s what socially responsible investing (SRI) is all about: Using our investment dollars to do “double duty.”  Making a difference while making money.

Opportunities for SRI, sometimes called sustainable investing or mission-based investing, are increasing every year and now include everything from mutual funds and SRI investment portfolio managers to venture capital.

Unlike traditional investments, SRI assumes that long-term investment decisions are best when environmental, social and corporate governance factors are considered in concert with the traditional rigorous financial analysis.

SRI investing usually uses a combination of the following approaches: screening, shareholder advocacy and community investments.

Screening, which can be either positive or negative, uses specific environmental, social or corporate-governance criteria to determine which companies to avoid or which to invest in.

Shareholder advocacy actively uses your voice as a stockholder to urge corporations to be more responsible by voting proxies and/or having a dialogue with a company.

Whether you do this yourself or work with an SRI professional who does it for you, voting proxies and having a dialogue with the company is a powerful way to persuade companies to consider social and environmental consequences as well as financial benefits.

Community investing refers to putting your cash assets, like savings accounts and certificates of deposit, into community financial development institutions. These banks or credit unions help people who are underserved by traditional banking institutions get the credit they need to build equity by starting a business or buying a home.

Over 25 years ago, two visionary women, Amy Domini of Domini Social Investments and Joan Bavaria of Trillium Asset Management, were among the first investment managers to understand the power of the proxy and see the value and potential of using their investments to do double duty.

As pioneers in the SRI movement, these women were instrumental in developing a strategy to get “social returns” as well as financial rewards.

Philanthropy and socially responsible investing are two ways of expressing the same fundamental desire: To do something with one’s financial resources to promote the well-being of humanity.

By intentionally positioning our gifts and our investments to work for social change, women have the opportunity to have a multi-layered impact – on corporations, on our communities and on the world, as well as on ourselves.

Ann B. Alexander, a SRI consultant, believes investment dollars can be used as a powerful agent of change while achieving attractive financial returns. She serves as a resource to foundations, nonprofits, business owners and individuals, educating them on how to further their missions with their investments, as well as recommending specific investment firms that specialize in SRI. 

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