A theme that we’ve touched on often in our posts relates to the investment merits of investing responsibly. At this point the SRI world contains mostly ethically motivated investors. But we are rapidly moving into an era where the lines between (if there were any) profits and values are fading. I always find it interesting that this surprises many people when most would agree that owning companies that do things “right” is also usually profitable. It’s certainly in-line with what we’ve coined as good ole American work ethic and other honorable aims that we readily claim. Finding companies with products and services that improve our society and do it in a responsible manner has been a solid historical investment principal for choosing where to place assets.
This possible trend in the SRI realm, gaining support from investors who are solely seeking returns, reminds me of the story of William Wilberforce. Now, I’m basing this mainly off of the movie, Amazing Grace, but I think that the principal is still historically correct. Wilberforce, a member of the British parliament, tirelessly fought to end the slave trade for 20 years. He became famous for his passionate speeches and moral fervor regarding the issue. But it was not until the political and economic environments shifted to positions where opposing the slave trade became advantageous to the individual parliament members that the vote to end the trade finally passed. I’m guessing that the abolitionists would have wanted all of parliament to finally see the light regarding the horrible and inhumane practice of buying and selling humans. But in the end, they got what they longed for through more pragmatic means.
In the same way, as investments flow to companies doing business in a socially responsible manner, SRI causes will be advanced. It won’t matter whether or not the dollars are seeking maximum growth or the greater good. Sure it would be great to see a mass enlightenment among investors, but can we really expect an agreement among these investors as to what causes are of the greatest importance anyway?
No matter what the motives are, it seems that investors should be considering companies and strategies that implement SRI principles if they want to be at the forefront of growing economic and investment trends.