Incremental change…

The idealist in many of us would love to suddenly see the concept of corporate responsibility wash over Wall Street.  The realist in us says that it is, if not immovable, very difficult to move.  But then again, the pragmatist in us says that we can move it, just in small increments.

It is rewarding when we see the fruits of our efforts in the socially & environmentally responsible investing community.  Slowly companies are realizing that concepts such as energy efficiency are not only good for the environment, but also for the bottom line.

I had an introduction to orienteering several years ago.  Orienteering is the ability to get from point A to point B using basic instructions and a compass.  One of the rules is to make sure that you are headed in the right direction, because being off just one degree makes a huge difference the farther you are from your starting point, and you can end up somewhere completely different than you intended.

As we invest, there are always going to be what we call the best in class companies – the ones that we’re proud to have in our portfolios.  But the majority of companies out there are not best in class, they simply need a push in a different direction to start their change.  This push can come from direct engagement with our investment and institutional managers or thru shareholder resolutions.

If you go into your local Best Buy store, for example, you’ll see that they now offer electronics recycling.  This is a direct result of engagement with investment and institutional managers.  The system does work.

If you feel that you can’t make a difference alone, remember that your socially & environmentally responsible investments are.  By putting your money where your mouth is, you are combining your assets with many other individuals and institutions just like you, who care about how they fund their financial goals.  There is strength in numbers, so the more assets we have, the more muscle we have to work with companies.

So, using the orienteering analogy, every degree of change that we help institute can make a huge difference down the road, and when we compound this with other metrics and companies, it’s easy to see the importance of socially & environmentally responsible investing.  If you haven’t started, isn’t it about time?


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