Talk is cheap. If you want to influence people, you need money.
While this may be an over-simplification, few would argue that money does not bring influence. So, what influence are you having with your money?
That’s right – your money is influencing someone, somewhere. How you spend and invest your money sends a signal to anyone who wants to make a profit. The clothes you wear, the food you eat, and the car you drive are all studied by researchers whose business it is to find out what combination of features will make consumers part with their hard earned money. This is one of the dynamic forces of a market economy.
Do you know what your investments say to the captains of industry? For many of us, the message is simply "Maximize profits and make me rich as quickly as possible." At least judging from the results, that's the message most CEOs are getting from their shareholders.
So, what else should a good CEO consider? Here is one suggestion: whether the corporation will be able to continue its current business practices or be forced to find new ways to make profits in the future. In a word – sustainability. What if it were possible for you to invest your money in some of the leading companies today, knowing they have a competitive edge that could help them keep their leadership in the markets of tomorrow?
Studies show that well-managed "most respected" companies tend to excel in many different areas, and also have delivered greater profits to their shareholders. Some key performance indicators are a company's record on environmental issues, product safety, and how employees are treated. Doesn't it make sense to find a way to screen your investments to avoid companies whose careless business practices may put their future profits in jeopardy?
One popular screening mechanism which focuses on sustainable business practices is called "socially responsible" investing or SRI. Screening can be used to avoid unwanted types of businesses, to favor desirable businesses, or both. Furthermore, there are plenty of mutual funds and other types of pooled money which use these strategies in evaluating the securities they hold in their portfolios.
In addition to security screening, SRI also frequently involves the practice of shareholder advocacy, where investors initiate a dialog with the management of companies in which they are invested. Over a period of time, organizations of shareholders who make their social concerns known to corporate leaders are able to effect changes in environmental and labor policies.
If you like the idea of having a greater influence on the business practices of the companies you invest in and profiting from it yourself, please consider learning more about this important topic. If you or someone you know would like more information on SRI and how investors can benefit from integrating their personal values into their investment decisions, please read some of the archived postings in the Socially Responsible Investing group or post your own questions.