The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette
| more

Photo Gallery

Integrating Green Investing Into Your Portfolio


Integrating Green Investing Into Your Portfolio

By Dale Warren

Lately, I catch myself getting really upset when I forget to bring a reusable bag to the farmers market.  In fact, it gives me an empty feeling in my gut. In the same spectrum, when looking at your brokerage account and seeing certain companies that just don’t align with your values, this empty feeling may take over. 

Intro Sustainable and Responsible Investing

Sustainable and responsible investing (SRI) is an investment discipline that considers environmental, social and corporate governance criteria (ESG) to generate long-term competitive financial returns and positive social or environmental impact.  Today, more than one out of every nine dollars under management in the United States is invested according to SRI strategies.  Some investors are driven by their personal values and goals.  Some investors want strong financial performance, but also believe that these investments should be used to contribute to advancements in environmental practices. Evidence is starting to show a strong link between ESG and financial performance.  And let’s face it, if you can screen out of your investments the “evil-doers” of the world, and at the same time not sacrifice your returns, then isn’t it a win-win?

Here are 3 “to do” items that should not be overlooked when it comes to becoming more involved with your portfolio:

Direct ownership of stocks

You make the decision of whether or not that tobacco company or polluting oil company is in your list of stocks. You can easily sell or divest yourself of these firms. You can easily demand that your investment advisor dispose of these holdings or else transfer your account to an investment advisor that does so.

Be sure to vote your proxy. You voted in the last Presidential election, right? Perhaps even more important than this is to vote on any shareholder resolutions listed. Don’t you want to have a say as to whether or not Denny’s should be using cage-free eggs? I do.

Don’t be bashful. If you have owned a stock for at least one year, you can voice concern through a fairly simple 500-word statement to the CEO and Board of Directors. This proposal could be put on millions of proxy statements and even give you a 5-minute spot to speak directly to the CEO and executives of any company at their annual shareholder meeting.

Mutual funds or ETFs

In a lot of cases, most of us own the funds which hold the individual stocks. If that is the case, learn more about the funds. In the prospectus of the fund, it will list every single stock position along with an investment philosophy. Because you are a paying customer of these fund families, you have every right to contact them to ask if they are considering the integration of any environmental or social screen within the fund. If they say no, ask them why not. If you do have a retirement plan at your workplace ask the HR manager for options that integrate sustainable investing.

Banking and “Brokeraging”

Though a component of the overall finance world, where we bank is an investment decision. Can you believe that some banks are still lending to companies involved in mountaintop removal coal mining? There are many banks that integrate a mission of sustainability and would welcome new customers with open hands.  Where one has their assets held can affect the planet as well.  Working with an independent advisor as opposed to the larger “cookie cutter” services such as Edward Jones, which has 10,400 offices and Raymond James with over 4,700 branches, will ensure that your fees being charged are being directed more locally as opposed to some headquarters in the middle of Missouri. 

Reversing our negative impact on this planet is going to take time. Taking each aspect of our lives and trying to implement positive “baby steps” is going to be key to making this place habitable for our grandchildren. In due time, sustainable and responsible investing will be the norm.

Dale Wannen is President of Sustainvest Asset Management, an independent investment advisory firm based in Petaluma, that specializes in socially and environmentally responsible investing. He can be reached at