Doing well by doing good? The increasing practice of Socially Responsible Investing
There are many ways to be well. Most people consider wellness to include physical health and well-being. Some would also consider emotional, financial and spiritual wellness as worthy of their attention, and devote time and resources to addressing issues to promote those types of wellness.
In recent years, greater emphasis has been placed on the intersection of financial wellness and emotional or spiritual wellness. The world of investing has begun to focus attention on ways in which capital can be invested to support businesses which are promoting social or environmental welfare or are governing themselves in a way that promotes diversity and inclusion of those historically marginalized in corporate leadership, either by virtue of gender, race or other suspect criteria.
For many investors, this approach aligns with their desire to support business that are “doing good” in the world either in terms of what social or environmental issues they are addressing, and perhaps in terms of how they govern themselves and treat the employees within their companies.
What has come to be known as Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) or Environmental Social Governance investing (ESG) involves using criteria like environmental, social, governance and employment practices to choose what investments will be held in a portfolio. According to Commonwealth Financial Network’s website:
Sometimes referred to as environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) investing, Socially Responsible (SRI) is a broad-based strategy in which corporate responsibility and societal concerns are factored into investment decisions. In short, an SRI strategy seeks to maximize both financial return and social good.
Companies dealing in tobacco, gambling, fossil fuels, weapons, or involve child labor, employee discrimination, or lacking board diversity are the kinds that get attention in SRI/ESG screening. Mutual funds will screen out companies that don’t measure up in those areas.
This has broad appeal for many investors, but for some time there have been concerns that one could sacrifice market performance for social benefit. For example, removing fossil fuel stock from a portfolio could exclude some of the top performing companies during certain market periods. That is a difficult choice to make. Over time, the index that measures the performance of mutual funds that screen for SRI companies has shown that the gap has narrowed significantly between the general mutual and exchange-traded fund world and SRI-screened funds.
According to a US News and World Reports June 7, 2018 blog post entitled Socially Responsible Investing Delivers:
Research and performance history imply that socially responsible investors receive superior absolute returns and risk-adjusted performance, while also addressing sustainability concerns. Dollars invested in sustainable and socially responsible strategies provide companies with better ESG metrics easier access to capital, which reduces the cost of equity and supports higher stock prices.
So when you’re thinking about your own wellness, consider whether a more socially responsible approach to investing makes sense for you. Would knowing that your investments were supporting companies working to improve the environment, or address social causes, or include women and minorities in executive leadership add value to your experience as an investor? As with all investment choices, you should consult with your financial advisors before making any changes to your portfolio or investment strategy.
Socially responsible investing involves the exclusion of certain securities for nonfinancial reasons. This may result in the investor forgoing some market opportunities that may have been available to those not subject to such criteria. There is no guarantee that any investment goal will be met.