In the past few years I’ve started to be more intentional with where I spend my money. I support smaller local retailers and farmers markets where I know my dollar makes a significant difference in the bottom line. When I started investing, I realized this was another chance to use my money to support my beliefs.
However, investing with intent was intimidating. I knew little about investing in general, and less about how to find information about where my money was actually going. So, I talked to some experts about how to get started. Here’s what I learned.
What Is Socially Responsible Investing?
Simply put, socially responsible investing (SRI), also known as socially conscious investing, means putting your money behind companies that align with your beliefs.
“Socially conscious investing appeals to younger investors who want to do ‘good’ (as in social good) but also want to do financially well,” says Robert Johnson, president and CEO of The American College of Financial Services.
There are two approaches: Investors can choose to exclude companies that have practices that the investors don’t believe in, like supporting petroleum production or weapons manufacturing. Or, investors can take an inclusive approach, actively investing in companies that support causes the investor believes in, like minority-run businesses or those that support social changes.
It can effect serious change, like in the 1980s, when consumers put pressure on companies to divest from South African interests to protest apartheid.
Today, millennials are driving the modern trend as they begin to take a more active role in their finances.
“Millennials are extremely intent-focused. They’re more socially conscious and look for change in the world they live in,” says Brandon Krieg, CEO and cofounder of Stash, an investing app. “Millennials are currently the largest living generation so it’s no surprise their investing behavior is picking up and becoming more popular.”
How to Make Money While Supporting Change
While socially responsible investors want to take pride in supporting causes that they believe in, it’s important that they make investments that are financially sound as well, says Rob Drury, executive director of the Association of Christian Financial Advisors.
“Regardless of how admirable their operations and intentions, subsidizing failing companies is not the goal,” he says. Fortunately, there are now enough options that socially conscious investors can expect to have returns that are in line with market norms.
It is, however, important for investors to make sure that their portfolios are adequately diversified in order to protect their investments. For example, if you are investing heavily in green energy companies and that sector takes a hit, so could your wealth. While this is always an important consideration for investors, targeting specific causes can make you more likely to have a portfolio that isn’t diverse enough, Drury says, so socially conscious investors should be especially careful to choose a variety of investments.
How to Get Started With Socially Responsible Investing
With more investors interested in socially driven change, there are several resources and products available to make the process simple. Here are some options to get you started:
Stash is an app that allows you to invest with as little as $5. The app encourages people to put their money toward companies that give returns and align with their personal beliefs.
“We encourage clients to invest in companies they believe in, admire and anticipate (will) grow over time,” Krieg says.
The impact investment platform identifies high-impact, high-potential companies, and each company has an information card so you know exactly what you're investing in. Plus, you can get started with just $50
The investing app Betterment boasts technology to help customers earn more than typical investors, plus low fees, and it also introduced an SRI portfolio last year available to all customers with no minimum.
We Are Enough
We Are Enough is a non-profit started by female venture capitalists and entrepreneurs that educates people on options for supporting women-run (and minority-owned) businesses, an approach known as gender-lens investing.
“If more women are educated, informed and activated around investing in women, then women won't find themselves having to beg, guilt or threaten men with money and power to do the right (and financially fruitful) thing because simply put: Women are enough,” says founder Tracy Gray.
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