By JANINE FINNELL, Founder and Clean Energy Ambassador, Leaders in Energy
I attended a meeting this week in Arlington, Virginia with several of my neighbors who are interested in learning more about how to participate in a neighborhood co-op (VA SUN) to install solar panels on their homes. It was a packed house full of people who are interested in investing in a system to generate their own electricity for a variety of reasons, including concern about the environment, reducing costs, increasing reliability, and early adoption of technology.
I thought that this captive audience might be a good opportunity for me to chat with some of the participants, not only about their interest in solar energy, but also whether they have any interest in sustainable investing. While spending money directly on a solar system can provide many benefits including boosting the local economy and jobs, not everyone can do this – heck, like me, maybe they have too much shade in their yard!
Investing in mutual funds and other forms of investments that are geared towards a clean energy economy might provide another way for people to direct their investments to make a positive difference in the world. How people spend and invest their money can also serve to move businesses toward a more sustainable energy system and economy.
Sustainable investing, including those investments under the label of socially responsible investing (SRI), environment, social, and corporate governance (ESG), or another framework, is booming: According to Bloomberg, “From 2012 to 2014, the number of U.S. investment funds incorporating ESG criteria jumped 28 percent, to 925, and their assets more than quadrupled, to $4.3 trillion, according to the Forum for Sustainable & Responsible Investment.” In 2014, more than one out of every six dollars under professional management in the United States was invested according to SRI strategies.
Leaders in Energy, an organization which provides educational, professional networking, and advisory services in the clean energy and sustainability arena, has an upcoming event in the Washington DC Metro area on June 14th on the topic of Sustainable Investing. Several Leaders in Energy members were also attending the solar co-op event I mentioned earlier. I discovered that they had been involved in sustainable investing for some time, and I wanted to share their observations.
Helen Reinecke-Wilt, Green Home Choice Program Manager for the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy, purchased her home solar system around seven years ago. She has also been involved in sustainable investing and relies on her financial advisor to guide her in the right direction. Helen had this to say about her investment decisions: “If you are thinking of making investments in alternative energy, look for solid mutual funds that focus on wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy. I made a switch of some of my investments into several such renewable energy funds, and I have been very pleased and feel good about my choices.”
Marta Layseca, owner of the Green Home design firm called EnviroHomeDesign (EHD), told me that: “I have been investing in socially responsible strategies for many years. Our family’s financial advisor uses an investment policy statement that gives us a chance to outline the kinds of investments we want to pursue, such as alternative energy or local banks, and those we want to avoid, such as military weapons and fossil fuel companies. The financial returns are comparable to mainstream investments and my family, and I feel better that our investments are helping to make the world a better place.” EHD is an award-winning design and build firm specializing in beautiful, healthy, and resource-efficient homes that minimize waste and materials during construction, save water and energy during operation, and that their clients love to live in.
Another attendee at the event commented to me that you really don’t need to be an expert yourself to take advantage of these kinds of funds, as there are plenty of financial advisors out there that can help guide people to make the right choices for them.
If you are interested in how your investment choices can influence a better world, we hope that you can join us as we examine the topic of Sustainable Investing on June 14th, 6-8:30 pm. We are excited about our line-up of panel speakers from a number of companies that specialize in sustainable investing including Calvert Investments, Pax World Investments, and Morgan Stanley.
We will be looking at the various definitions of sustainable investing which can sometimes be an alphabet soup of terms such as SRI, ESG, and other investment mechanisms. We will also be looking at the investment screening criteria that these companies use to decide whether a company qualifies to be included in social investment mutual funds.
Our event is titled “Perspectives on Making an Impact Through Sustainable Investing.” It will take place at the Boulevard Woodgrill, Tuesday, June 14th, 6-8:30 pm.
Registration and speaker information is available here.
More information on Janine Finnell and Leaders in Energy is available at https://www.leadersinenergy.org and in the Leaders in Energy Research, Communication, Policies & Analysis (LERCPA) LinkedIn group. She enjoys connecting with other leaders (current and aspiring!) in clean energy and sustainability who are interested in collaborating on projects and related opportunities to make a difference.
Please feel free to reach out to her at CleanEnergyAmbassador@leadersinenergy.org if you have any thoughts that you would like to share regarding this article or your interests in clean energy and sustainability.