Curious about the effect Occupy Wall Street has had on the socially responsible investing field, I recently spoke with Michael Kramer, Managing Partner of Natural Investments, a Socially Responsible Investing company. Kramer said that the current interest in the impact investing was truly inspiring. “Having done this for 20 years, it’s remarkable how exponential the growth in this field is,” he said.
Kramer cited that socially responsible investing is a $3 trillion marketplace. “We’re redefining what corporations are, and there are more and more assets flowing into this space,” said Kramer. “It’s because of scandal, but it’s also because of peoples’ concerns with the regulatory environment.” In other words, people fear that stronger regulations are coming and will negatively affect many businesses with substantial unaccounted for liabilities in public health and the environment. “What this whole field is doing is beyond sustainability. It’s helping to create a regenerative economy, and in reality, we need to be there. Sustaining what we have today is not enough.”
As someone who has sought out socially responsibly companies to invest in for 20 years, Kramer said investors are really looking for this kind of progressive investment. For a long time it’s been about avoiding a certain element, like gambling or weapons manufacturers. Now, Kramer is really seeing so much more interest in going beyond avoidance to proactive investment in clean technologies.
Natural Investing is a B-Corporation, despite the fact that the certification process was quite rigorous. B-lab did a site visit to Natural Investments and asked to see receipts to see how much procurement the company had done within a certain distance of its operations.
When Kramer was asked about the “corporation as the villain” phenomenon. Kramer said, “I’m very familiar with great corporations. Those are the ones we invest in, and they don’t get as much press as those that spill oil or blow peoples’ pension plans.”
Natural Investments exclusively does values-based investing, doing everything from 401(K) plans to institutions, endowments, and retirements.
Scott Cooney is the developer of a GBO Hawai’i, a new Triple Bottom Line board game, where players are impact investors helping Hawai’i transition away from oil and imported foods, and the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill).