Category: July 2014 – The Millennials Perspective

The Transformative Power of Fair Trade Gold Mining in Tanzania

By Marc Choyt, Reflective Images

 

In May of this year I had the opportunity visit some small-scale gold miners in Tanzania that are seeking fair trade certification. The trip was sponsored by Fair Trade International, funded by a grant from the UK charity, Comic Relief. On site, I met with colleagues in from England and Africa, who have been working hard over the past two years to build an understanding of standards at the mine.  Part of the purpose of the visit was also to bring jewelers and miners together to discuss what was needed to bring fairtrade gold to market.

First, a bit of background on small scale gold mining. Small scale mining produces as much 25% of the world’s gold supply. The image below is typical of what you’d see at one of these mines in Tanzania—a mix of people around water, dirt, diesel and machinery.

In the developing world, small scale gold mining is subsistence based, almost always illegal, unregulated, and extremely toxic. A small-scale gold mine can look like destroyed river banks or patches of toxic tailings in the middle of a rainforest. Sometimes it is done part time, to supplement or substitute for agricultural work. Almost universally, it is considered huge problem in the developing world. Annually, small scale gold mine spills 1400 metric tons of mercury into the environment– mercury is, one of the most dangerous of all neuro-toxins.

Fair Trade gold works with small producers. What is considered small versus medium or large is not yet clearly defined. One benefit of small scale  mining is that it employees a lot of people. Worldwide, 60% of the gold is produced by large mining companies that might pay a small royalty to a government and export the gold out. Large scale mining employees about 700,000 people.  Worldwide, small scale gold mining is done by 25 million people. This potentially could be a huge amount of money entering the local economies in producer communities.

Fair trade succeeds in transforming small scale gold miners from a resource curse into in an environmentally responsible business initiative that alleviates poverty. The operations I saw employed forty to sixty people. They might produce between three quarters of a kilo and a kilo of gold a month.  Fair trade gold is not charity. Fair trade provides a certification structure and credibility that allows fair business between empowered producers and ethical international business people.

Why Impact Investors Must Come To Terms With the Biological Bottom Line

By Paul R. Ehrlich and M. C. Tobias, co-authors of Hope on Earth

 

When Nicholas Stern released the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change (October 30, 2006) for the British government, it was already clear that global warming, weather anomalies and the consequences of unheeded business-as-usual greenhouse gas emission syndromes represented a huge challenge for portfolio management that had unambiguously put governments on notice. Despite continuing havoc amongst the participating nations to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it had become clear that they should prepare for accelerating depletion of every major life-support system, and the corresponding societal chaos and economic loss which would result from escalating global temperatures and their impacts on climatic patterns and thus on biodiversity. Climate disruption presented new, but sobering opportunities; epiphanies regarding the true capacity of taxation to collectively cap the shadow now cast upon every financial market worldwide [1] and on the future of civilization itself [2].

More recently, in her essay for GreenMoney, “Building a Sustainable Global Economy,” Mindy Lubber, President of CERES, wrote, “This should alarm every investor looking for long-term value creation, because climate regulatory risks alone could cost investment funds $8 trillion by 2030, according to the international consultancy Mercer.” [3]

While the SEC and several European investor groups have now come of age to the extent of mandating environmental audits at some level of stringency, requiring a degree of transparency that should shed light on the risks to investors of new weather patterns generated by new concentrations of GHGs (greenhouse gases). Meanwhile, biodiversity itself remains enmeshed in a seemingly impossible double-bind: there is simply no way as yet to accurately reflect true economic value of an individual, let along an entire species, or mosaic of interacting populations. All we know is that society is completely dependent on the mosaic of other organisms for its very existence.

In our book Hope On Earth: A Conversation (University of Chicago Press, May, 2014) we engaged in a discussion hinging upon the various ethical and pragmatic components of the one versus the many and of the future prospects of humanity. And we do it in a context not just of climate disruption, the loss of biodiversity, toxification of Earth, threats to health, poverty, racism, sexism, inequity and other factors the blight the human future.  Do our responses to individual plights reflect in any way an approach to realistic valuations of those individuals to this generation and future generations? Is our proclivity for heavily discounting the future and turning a blind-eye to likely ecological catastrophe built-in to a narcissism that would subject future generations to every manner of havoc as long as we are able to consume to our heart’s content now.  Is it in any way ethical for us in rich nations to disregard the consequences to others today, to say nothing of our own descendants?

This is but one crucial dilemma. Another is the notion that continual growth is necessary to a thriving economy. Yet, both science and common sense alerts us to the perils of hypertrophy. The human population at current trends will most assuredly hit 9.5 billion, and quite possibly in excess of that U.N. median projection, unless catastrophe intervenes. Already, however, billions of humans live below the poverty line, more than 800 million are hungry, and as many as 2 billion more are micro-nutrient malnourished; whilst the human collective continues to not only discount but fully annihilate one species after another; many thousands of populations of sentient beings every day. That degradation has been assessed at values of “2.1 to 4.8 trillion US dollars” annually [4]. That number was calculated in 2008. A very different analysis, in 1997, estimated the sum total of nature’s free services as being worth some USD $33 trillion each year [5]. But these are very blurred estimates, lacking the ethical substrata with which we attempt to grapple in our Conversation.

For example, what is the value of a single critically endangered California Condor, or Florida Panther? We know from judicial guidance that the value of a person varies in courts of law from country to country, from hundreds of dollars to millions of dollars. The effort to save a few hundred California condors from extinction costs approximately $1.6 million per bird. In the case of the Florida panther, $4.9 million per cat.

How we attribute costs and benefits to life forms is no science, however. Rather, the effort to accord life forms true value hinges upon society’s willingness to pay, a quotient that tends to function in direct relation to wealth accumulation and whether an organism is perceived as “charismatic.” Given that wealth accumulations are in vast disarray, with inequality gaps posing greater challenges than ever before as the human species continues to explode, what can we reasonably expect any political party, community leader, or individual to do in service to his/her country, or the species in our backyards? Does kin altruism collapse in a global commons, or are there common standards that play out in biological as well as economic terms wherein a consistency can be divined?

Never in our history has this been the case, and we have little reason to believe that the getting of common sense will, in any realistic time frame provide us sufficient leverage against the unprecedented ecological catastrophes we are now inflicting on ourselves and on the planet. To even start to solve the population problem humanely we’d need to greatly increase the status and opportunities for women, and to make modern contraception and back-up abortion available to all sexually active people. And while such measures would start to bend the trajectory of population growth in the right direction, it would be a century or more before population size could be reduced to a long-term sustainable level.

Necessary reduction in over-consumption by the already rich could be accomplished much more rapidly, as we know from history, but that also would require political will and common sense that is nowhere apparent.

And such will is certainly not evident if we turn boldly to an ethical assessment of humanity’s relationship to other species. We at once recognize that virtually every other animal (with the exception of the proverbially pampered poodle) approaches us at their peril; that the photosynthetic commons is one we have massively appropriated for ourselves (between an estimated 50% and 60%); that more than 100 billion vertebrates (cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, etc.) are slaughtered under Holocaust like conditions each year for our singular pleasures; a number that does not account for the vastly larger quantum of aquatic individuals, and entire fisheries increasingly undermined each year by humanity’s rapacious quest for protein (some 16% of which is thus far obtained from the oceans where we see a shocking absence of international treaties with traction, or of anything remotely approaching consistently wise-use conservation amongst the huge number of Exclusive Economic Zones).

The biological bottom-line, therefore, inflicts on any economic system a daunting challenge: how do we measure our species’ impact as a function of dollars, knowing that it is precisely the monetizing of nature and the translation of those dollar figures into taxable quanta that might help a money-oriented society restore ecosystems while there is still time to do so?

How can the value of not having an additional child, of not eating a steak, be developed?

Could moral suasion be enough to excite the level of multi-species altruism necessary to re-shape existing political and economic systems so that they mimic nature, work with nature, invest in nature, and above all assign appropriate value to nature? Or are these possibilities already too far gone, the very premise of human fairness, goodness, and self-preserving intelligence obsolete? Are we doomed to continue to plunge into an abyss?

This conundrum threatens humanity’s ability to save itself, whilst providing the rudiments for healing its life-support systems. At this point, as we approach COP21 – the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC [6] in Paris in late 2015, these yearnings may represent nothing more than an impossible dream, a very real possibility at the heart of our book, Hope On Earth: A Conversation.

Article by Paul R. Ehrlich and M. C. Tobias, co-authors of Hope on Earth

Article Citations:

[1]  http://www.webcitation.org/5nCeyEYJr

[2]  Ehrlich PR, Ehrlich AH. 2013. Can a collapse of civilization be avoided? Proceeding of the Royal Society B http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1754/20122845

[3]  https://greenmoney.com/april-2014/building

[4] http://news.smh.com.au/world/ecosystem-damage-costs-trillions-per-year-study-20080530-2jn5.html

[5]  See Tobias, M., and Jane Gray Morrison, God’s Country: The New Zealand Factor, A Dancing Star Foundation Book, Los Angeles, 2011, p.173.

[6] http://climate-l.iisd.org/events/unfccc-cop-21

Revolution Growth Invests in Healthy Meal Provider, Revolution Foods

By Author 1, Author 1 Title

By Author 2, Author 2 Title

New Funding Will Accelerate Expansion of Affordable, High-Quality Food into New Schools and Stores

Revolution Foods, the preeminent provider of healthy, kid-inspired school meals and retail products, recently announced a significant new investment from Revolution Growth. As part of the investment, Steve Case will join the company’s board. The investment will help Revolution Foods expand its school meal service and line of ready-to-eat Meal Kits into new schools and stores, providing more American families with access to affordable, delicious healthy food.

Founded by two moms with backgrounds in education, Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, Revolution Foods helps solve the challenge of providing access to high-quality, delicious food that meets (and exceeds) the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act requirements under the National School Lunch Program and Child Adult Care Food Program guidelines, which allow school meals to be reimbursable. The company currently prepares and delivers more than one million fresh meals each week to approximately 1,000 schools nationwide, the majority of which are in the nation’s most underserved communities.

Revolution Foods Meal Kits, launched in 2013, are available in grocery stores throughout the country, and the high-quality ingredients make them the first of their kind in the category.  Their kid-designed meals are made from high-quality, natural ingredients that never include high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

“We are thrilled that Revolution Growth believes, as we do, that kids should not have to face a tradeoff between eating great-tasting healthy food and eating affordably,” said Kristin Groos Richmond, co-founder and CEO of Revolution Foods. “We look forward to partnering with Steve Case and the Revolution Growth team as we bring our mission of building lifelong healthy eaters to families across the United States.”

“There are many facets to addressing the healthcare challenges we face in our country – and one of them is access to healthier food options at home, at work, on the road, and especially in our schools,” said Steve Case. “Revolution Foods is poised to build an iconic brand and company by unleashing a revolution in healthy eating that kids, parents, teachers and communities can all celebrate.”

Revolution Foods’ unique distribution model allows them to deliver fresh and healthy meals to schools every day via seven culinary centers, which employ more than 1,000 individuals around the country with an emphasis on providing jobs for inner city workers. Revolution Foods’ school meals are reimbursable to students who qualify and costs are kept low in part by an innovative supply chain and national scale.

Families can also bring Revolution Foods into their homes via the company’s Meal Kits, available in more than 2,000 grocery stores (such as Safeway, Vons and HEB) throughout the U.S. As with their school meals, the Meal Kits are made with high-quality ingredients and no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives or high fructose corn syrup.

About Revolution Growth

Founded and led by Steve Case, Ted Leonsis, and Donn Davis, Revolution Growth invests in companies that can change the world. Its mission is to build disruptive, innovative businesses that offer consumers more choice, convenience, and control in their lives. By taking a long-term approach and developing a true, hands-on partnership with entrepreneurs and management teams, Revolution Growth brings a unique strategy and passion to investing in and building significant companies. For more information, visit www.revolution.com/growth

About Revolution Foods

Revolution Foods is committed to transforming the way America eats by providing access to great-tasting, healthy meals for families across America. Since its founding in 2006, it has served over 100 million healthy, kid-designed affordable meals to schools across the country. Expanding upon its success in schools, Revolution Foods launched a line of high-quality, ready-to-eat Meal Kits, available at retail. Today, its 1,000+ locally-hired employees share in the Revolution Foods mission by creating and delivering over one million freshly prepared meals to students in schools, every week. Based in Oakland, CA it was twice named the second fastest growing company in America’s inner cities by the Inner City 100 List and ranked by Fast Company as #6 (for food) on the world’s 50 Most Innovative Companies. For more information visit www.revolutionfoods.com

Media Contacts:
Meredith Balenske, Revolution
Mobile: 202.680.2479 or  Email: meredithb@revolution.com

Shelly Puri, Revolution Foods
Mobile: 415.335.9355 or  Email: shelly@revolutionfoods.com

Article Source: Revolution.com

Mission Markets Launches New Platform to Support Impact Investing

New technology platform provides broader investor access, a community of members, and information on Impact Investing and impact fund offerings for the first time

 

Mission Markets, Inc., which operates a marketplace for impact investing, announced in early June 2014 the launch of its new technology platform. (See Twitter #InvestForImpact ) This platform provides institutional investors the opportunity to research and make investments focused upon favorable social and environmental outcomes. It also offers any member, from student to Wall Street executive, access to a broad repository of articles, research, data, blogs, forums and media that provide information about impact investing. Impact Investing is the term used to describe securities designed to achieve both a financial return and a positive social or environmental return.

”Impact investing’s time has come. Investors in all categories are seeking investments aligned with their personal values. They believe it is important to earn good financial returns, but it is also important investments support favorable social and environmental outcomes. These outcomes might include improvements in education, health, community development, or sustainability. Mission Markets provides access to information, technology and investment offerings to help investors make informed choices,” said Ken Marienau, Mission Markets CEO.

An exciting feature incorporated in this technology release is the inclusion of limited partnerships and impact fund products. These investment securities enable members to invest in professionally managed portfolios of companies focused upon targeted impact investing themes. The funds, and others to be offered soon, provide scalable investments for institutional investor portfolios, while also providing a more diversified investment for individual investors. Some of the impact funds (e.g., TriLinc Global Impact Fund and Greenbacker Renewable Energy Fund) are publicly registered securities, which allow qualified individual investors who may not meet the “accredited investor” tests to initially invest as little as $2000.

Mission Markets’ experience in impact investing is shared with a broad range of investors on this new platform. With the launch of Mission Markets new capabilities, individual, advised, and institutional investors have a marketplace to find companies that support their social or environmental investment objectives.

About Mission Markets

Mission Markets, founded in 2009, is the leading financial marketplace for impact investments. It provides an impact investing marketplace where institutional, advised, and self-directed investors can invest in companies with a strong social or environmental mission. The company helps impact-focused organizations grow by supporting a broad range of financial products, including direct private placements, impact funds, and structured debt securities. Securities products and services are offered through Mission Markets’ affiliated broker-dealer, Bendigo Securities, LLC (member FINRA/SIPC).

For more information, please contact:

Ken Marienau, CEO
Phone: 646-837-6877 or Phone 2: 678-491-6695
Twitter: @kmarienau

Aaron Martin, Managing Director
Phone: 646-837-6877 or Phone 2: 347-261-4018

Article source: Mission Markets (via CSRwire)

Sallie Krawcheck and Pax World to Partner on Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund (PXWEX)

Fund Will Track New Pax Global Women’s Leadership Index*  
 

Pax World Management LLC and Ellevate Asset Management LLC announced in early June 2014 that they have entered into a partnership agreement to manage and distribute the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund (https://paxworld.com/pax-ellevate/ ), which is a successor fund to the Pax World Global Women’s Equality Fund, following a shareholder-approved merger. The Fund is the first and only mutual fund in the United States that focuses on investing in companies that are global leaders in advancing women.

Sallie Krawcheck is a principal of Ellevate Asset Management, which has acquired an ownership interest in Pax Ellevate Management LLC (“Pax Ellevate”), the investment adviser to the Fund, where Ms. Krawcheck will serve as Chair. Ms. Krawcheck has also been elected to the board of trustees of the Fund.

The Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund will seek investment returns that closely correspond to or exceed the price and yield performance, before fees and expenses, of the Pax Global Women’s Leadership Index (“the Global Women’s Leadership Index”).*

The Global Women’s Leadership Index, the first index of its kind, consists of equity securities of companies around the world that demonstrate a commitment to advancing women through gender diversity on their board, in executive management and through other policies and programs, as rated by Pax World Gender Analytics. Companies in the Index also meet key environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards, as rated by MSCI ESG Research.

Women hold 31% of board seats in companies held in the new Fund, and 24% of senior management positions, as compared to global averages of only 11% in each case[1]. Fully 97% of companies in the Fund have two or more women on their board and nearly 70% have three or more women on their board.

“I am pleased to be partnering with Pax World to introduce the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund,” said Ms. Krawcheck. “This is a major step forward in directing investor capital to the highest-rated companies in the world in advancing women’s leadership. We believe that it is simply smart business to invest in women and that this investment case will be borne out over time by the performance of this global index fund.”

The Pax partnership represents the first investment initiative undertaken by Ms. Krawcheck since she purchased the Ellevate women’s network (formerly named “85 Broads”) last year. She is the former president of the Global Wealth & Investment Management division of Bank of America, which includes Merrill Lynch and U.S. Trust; former CEO of Citigroup’s wealth management business, including Smith Barney and the Citi Private Bank; and former Director of Research and then chairman and CEO of sell-side research firm Sanford Bernstein.

“Sallie is one of the most respected individuals in financial services, and her interest in partnering on the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund speaks to the gathering momentum around investing in women, and in companies that invest in women,” said Pax World President and CEO Joe Keefe. “This is the first fund of its kind investing in the first broad-market, global index where the universe of companies is distinguished, vis-a-vis the market as a whole, by its gender leadership. We hope to measure the contributions and capture the returns associated with women’s leadership and to deliver market or above-market returns over the long term. We therefore believe the Fund can be considered as a core holding in many investor portfolios.”

“I can think of no better way to invest in women than to invest in those companies around the world that have distinguished themselves by both their business performance and their leadership in advancing women,” said Krawcheck in June of her decision to partner on the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund. “This Fund represents a market solution to a global business challenge – the need to increase the number of women on boards and in management. The business edge that often comes from more diverse leadership teams is an investment idea whose time has come. These are not niche companies. Many are widely-recognized brands in their fields, and I look forward to shining a spotlight on – and helping putting capital behind – the kind of progressive thinking that can yield strong company performance.”

* A customized index calculated by MSCI. One cannot invest directly in an index.

Article Note [1] Women on Boards Survey, Governance Metrics International, April 2013

About Pax World Management LLC

Pax World Management LLC, investment adviser to Pax World Funds (www.paxworld.com ), is a recognized leader in Sustainable Investing, the full integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into investment analysis and decision making. Pax World Funds include the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund (PXWEX), the only mutual fund in America focused on investing in companies that are global leaders in advancing women. Across all of its funds, Pax World withholds support from all-male corporate board slates, and working with other institutional investors, actively engages with companies to embrace gender diversity on their boards.

About Ellevate Asset Management LLC

Ellevate Asset Management LLC was formed by Sallie Krawcheck and business partner Allyson McDonald to provide investors with a means of directing capital to companies that actively embrace gender diversity and female leadership as a lever for business success. Krawcheck also owns Ellevate Network (formerly 85 Broads), the global professional women’s network. Both of these organizations are dedicated to the economic engagement of women worldwide.

About MSCI

MSCI is a leading provider of investment decision support tools to clients ranging from large pension plans to boutique hedge funds. Located in 24 countries around the world, MSCI is dedicated to supporting the increasingly complex needs of the investment community with groundbreaking new products, high quality data, superior distribution and dedicated client support. Since the MSCI indices were launched over 40 years ago, the company has grown to become one of the world’s leading players in the provision of products and services to institutional investors.

On 6/4/2014,the Pax World Global Women’s Equality Fund merged into the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund (the Fund), pursuant to an Agreement and Plan of Reorganization dated March 4, 2014 (the  “Reorganization”). Because the Fund had no investment operations prior to the closing of the Reorganization, Pax World Global Women’s Equality Fund (the “Predecessor Fund”) is treated as the survivor of the Reorganization for accounting and performance reporting purposes. Accordingly, all performance and other information shown for the Fund for periods prior to 6/4/2014 is that of the Predecessor Fund.

Risks

Investment in mutual funds involves risk, including possible loss of principal invested. You could lose money on your investment in the Fund or the Fund could underperform because of the following risks: the market prices of stocks held by the Fund may fall; individual investments of the Fund may not perform as expected; the Fund’s portfolio management practices may not achieve the desired result. The Fund does not attempt to outperform the Index or take defensive positions in declining markets. Accordingly, the Fund’s performance would likely be adversely affected by a decline in the Index. Funds focusing on small/medium companies generally experience greater price volatility. Investments in emerging markets and non-US Securities are generally less liquid and less efficient than investments in developed markets and are subject to additional risks, such as risks of adverse governmental regulation, intervention and political developments. As this Fund can have a high concentration in some issuers the Fund can be adversely impacted by changes affecting issuers. There is no guarantee that the objective will be met and diversification does not eliminate risk.

Past performance does not guarantee future results. Index returns do not represent fund returns.

Media Contact:
Molly Chase, Solomon McCown – email: mchase@solomonmccown.com
(617) 933-5028

ALPS Distributors, Inc. is not affiliated with Ellevate Asset Management LLC, or with MSCI.

Article Source: Pax World website

 

Pride: Identity and Investing

By Julius Tapper, TD Bank Group

Julius TapperAs you may have noticed, there’s a theme to this issue of GreenMoney. As I write this article, featured as a “millennial voice,” I can’t hide a small smirk of irony. I grew up hating labels. Or, more diplomatically put, I had a strong aversion to them – especially my own. As a kid, my labels made me uncomfortable; black, gay, nerd. By definition, they were accurate, but they didn’t seem to fit. They felt limiting and prescriptive; they came with baggage that wasn’t my own. I felt my individuality, my identity, was undercut by my group affiliations.

My perceived stereotypes of “gay” and “black” were incongruent with my desire to be socially accepted and professionally successful. Inhabiting my intersection of race and sexuality was also difficult; Jamaica (where my parents are from) has a notoriously homophobic culture. In response to the tension between my identities, I retreated from them. When I stopped running from – and turned to examine – my ascribed labels, I found community, culture, and stories with personal resonance. I came to acknowledge that my individuality is enhanced by the intersectionality of my identities, and the history they bring. Frankly, I’m now quite proud of my labels, and they are an active and living part of who I am. Maya Angelou’s recent passing, for me, reinforced one of her most poignant lessons: “I go forth alone, and stand as ten thousand,” and I call on those tribes often.

Having been called on as a millennial to share my story for this article, I’m a little less suspicious of the label, and a little more interested in exploring what it means to me and what it might mean for the investment community. All of this talk of identity may seem a little sentimental for an investment publication, but I argue that identity will be a critical consideration for the investment community going forward.

We millennials have experienced a lot in our short lives. As Jed Emerson, and many others have noted: “[we] have experienced major boom and bust periods, including the prosperity of the 1990’s dot-com frenzy, and the financial markets’ collapse in 2008 and subsequent recession… [we] witnessed 9/11, the Arab Spring, long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, multiple terrorist attacks, and dramatic political division…” I’ll throw in climate change for good measure. Amid this external turbulence and uncertainty, the existential “quarter-life crisis” is a cultural trope of the millennial generation.

I expect a lot of change in my life. For me, the search for stability turns inward, trying to sort out conceptions of meaning, purpose and values to distill some sort of personal terra firma. Though this exercise is self-reflective, it is also social. My most memorable and engaging conversations have often been about these issues. It’s also interesting to note how often these abstract conversations become very concrete – what do I want from my career, how do I want to spend my time and energy – how do I want to invest my resources?

In 2009, I started my career at TD Securities, TD Bank Group’s capital markets division. It was a dynamic time to begin my training as a banker. Not only were regulations changing, but also expectations; how could the industry be different, how could it be better?

After three years in traditional finance, I was looking for something different from my career. Here, my identity played a pivotal role in my career trajectory. On May 17th, 2012, TD launched its “It Gets Better” video contribution to combat homophobia. TD strives for a culture where you are encouraged to bring your full authentic self to work; the video brought this to life for me in a very visceral way (read tears). I appreciated the power of bringing yourself to work, but it also drove me to bring my full self to my work. I wanted to carry personal authenticity and alignment across my life, and I wanted to make intentional decisions in pursuit of those ends. For me, it was the decision to make a transition to a career more focused on ‘impact’ – positive social and environmental outcomes.

As I prepared to leave the traditional finance sector, I realized that I could leave the bank, or I could bring it with me. I began to think about how a bank could offer unique contributions to social finance. I appreciated that finance was a powerful industry, and I began to think about opportunities to direct that power towards the problems that crawl across our screens every day. What would it look like to adapt existing and powerful infrastructure, and bring that explicit intention to banking?

Let’s look at social finance as a blanket term for investment approaches that incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into decision-making. The big goals of social finance aren’t timid: social finance is about reframing how markets identify opportunity and risk, and recognize value. It’s about reimagining efficient markets, and redefining good business. I developed a business case for social finance at TD, and pitched my ideas to a circle of mentors.

I left my job and secured a contract role to dedicate myself to building the pitch. I worked across the organization to recruit a diverse team and rally them around the ideas. Our pitch was successful, creating a full time role allowing me to develop our strategy, test pilots, and build towards big goals. A year and change later, I am glad to report some progress. With TD, we’ve successfully issued a $500 million green bond, offering more mainstream product with explicit intentionality to the market. It’s been fun, it feels right, it’s working, and I want more.

I share my story (hopefully) not to navel gaze, but to offer my experience and provide some context around my preferences and decision-making. At the top of the article, I said that that identity will be a critical consideration for the investment community going forward. I won’t claim to speak for millennials, but as one, I’m happy to elaborate on what I mean.

I’m not interested in compartmentalization. According to Wikipedia (how appropriately millennial), compartmentalization is “used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person’s having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves. Compartmentalization allows these conflicting ideas to co-exist by inhibiting direct or explicit acknowledgement and interaction between separate compartmentalized self states.” I don’t want to have a personal self, a work self, an investment self-etc., and I certainly don’t want them to be in conflict with each other. I want to be proud of them all.

Identity is important for the investment community, in that I want my investment partners to know me and what’s important to me: e.g. no matter the yield, I’m probably not interested in holding Russian government bonds. I want my investment partners to help me identify, acknowledge and address potential cognitive dissonance in my portfolio. I may not be able to construct a perfect-for-me portfolio of perfect-for-me companies, but where gaps exist, I want to have a discussion about it. I also want the opposite: where I may have a personal affinity for an investment opportunity – let’s call it cognitive resonance – I certainly want to hear about it, and I want it to play a role in portfolio decision-making. This I can get excited about, and that’s where an investment professional could add unique value.

Along with identity, I believe that community is an important opportunity. My best experiences have centered on collaboration, community and building. We’re all trying to figure this out, creating affinity groups and space for sharing and co-creation will be valued and valuable. The experience matters – we like having fun and playing with others, investing is becoming more about our connected humanity – as human interaction has a role to play.

Much has been, and will be, written about millennials and investing, and it will be interesting to watch the investment industry continue to evolve and grow in response to emerging trends and conditions. I’ve discussed identity, alignment, intentionality, and community as things that will impact the space — but very simply, I’m most excited to see how deep “know your client” diligence, the bedrock of the industry, will continue to shape its course.

Note: This content represents the thoughts of the author and does not necessarily represent the position of TD Bank Group.

Article by Julius Tepper, Manager of Social Finance at TD Bank Group, where he is leading the development of TD’s social finance and impact investing strategies, recently coordinating the launch of TD’s inaugural $500 million Green Bond. Julius also helps manage TD’s venture philanthropy and financial literacy initiatives. You can find Julius on Twitter @juliustapper

Nexus: Millennials on a Mission

By Brian Weinberg, Nexus

 

Brian Weinberg

NEXUS

Aron Ping D’Souza, a young philanthropist and Australian native, first attended a Nexus Summit in London in 2012. There, he was exposed to Sir Ronald Cohen’s work on impact investing and social impact bonds. The idea that for-profit investing could be a vehicle for social impact was new and powerful to him. It ignited his imagination on how he could bring these new relationships and extraordinary ideas back to his home country in the name of good.

A little more than a year later, he launched Good Super, Australia’s first social impact retirement fund at the first Nexus Summit in Australia, which he chaired. Good Super is aiming to reach USD $1 billion in assets by the end of 2014, supporting countless companies taking on major issues, ranging from clean energy to extreme poverty.

The leadership of the Alana Institute, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Marcos Nisti and Ana Lucia Villela (a member of the prominent Itau banking family) attended the inaugural Nexus Global Youth Summit in 2011. There, in a flash of inspiration, they conceived of a new business strategy to help tackle hunger issues globally. They started Satisfeito, a network of Brazilian restaurants that provide customers the option for a 2/3 portion of a given meal, at the same price, in order to contribute to Satisfeito. The money the restaurants save by serving the Satisfeito portion is then transferred to organizations that combat child hunger. Together, this program has sparked a funding mechanism that has provided over 44,000 meals for people in need.

How did this happen? What is Nexus?

At its core, Nexus is a movement. Practically speaking, it is a leading convener of young wealth holders and social entrepreneurs on topics related to philanthropy, impact investing and global problem solving. Participating families range from the Rockefellers and the Saudi royal family, to those behind major corporations like 7-Eleven, Hilton Hotels and more. The network boasts over 2,000 members from 70 countries. People from all around the world come together as part of this movement dedicated to a better world.

Nexus began in July of 2011, when Jonah Wittkamper, Rachel Cohen Gerrol and a small group of committed young visionaries convened the first Nexus Global Youth Summit on Innovative Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship at the United Nations in New York City. Their goal was to address several unmet needs: 1) Educate young wealth holders about the possibility of investing in worthwhile causes; 2) Feature leading young social entrepreneurs in the movement for global transformation; 3) Develop an annual platform to set agendas, feature youth-led innovations, and move the needle on key youth issues; and 4) Unite young philanthropy support organizations to focus and collaborate on youth issues, form globally diverse networks, and bridge the communities of wealth and social entrepreneurship.

Since 2011 Nexus has hosted over 10 summits around the world, and 20 teams are now self-organizing in their respective countries to continue to build the movement locally. Recently, Private Wealth magazine featured Nexus’ co-founders in an in-depth interview titled “Millennial Investors Unite,” and The New York Times covered the White House Conference on Next Gen Philanthropy that Nexus partnered with the Office of Science & Technology to help organize (http://nyti.ms/1oqpZ2v ).

Zac Russell, board member of the Russell Family Foundation and Nexus Advisor, says that Nexus’ value stems from the fact that “there is no agenda pushed onto me; it’s natural and real.” The conference itself begins with Nexus’ co-founder, Jonah Wittkamper, asking everyone to close their eyes. “Imagine for a second that in this one moment, everyone in the room will support you for the rest of your life,” he says. “This is an invitation to become a member of a different kind of community.”

It is a different kind of community. Some people describe philanthropy events as transactional, with participants solicited by a flurry of shiny auction items and expensive dinners. Many conferences are highly political and ideological, creating a polarizing experience for attendees.

Nexus is neither. It is relational. It creates a curated, safe space for authentic connection between members to both discover and build upon what excites them most. Whereas most programs that educate young wealth-holders about investing and philanthropy have historically prioritized questions of institutional credibility and academic expertise, this new model calls for hands-on experiences and peer-to-peer education. Nexus empowers young wealth holders to see their peers as leaders of social change and business innovation, thereby opening up new possibilities and planting seeds for more conscious investing and generosity. Organizing the young wealth education sector to be “for and by youth” is a new idea, and an unmet need.

In addition to mobilizing young wealth holders and social entrepreneurs, Nexus empowers financial service companies to get involved. More than 10 different financial service companies have chosen to send delegations of young people from their top client families to the 4th Annual Nexus Global Youth Summit. The firms are looking for new ways to better serve their younger clients’ changing needs, and organizing delegations help these firms build stronger relationships to better understand them. This is especially relevant given that more than 90 percent of inheritors switch to new advisors after they inherit.

And perhaps the major power behind Nexus is the fact that it is igniting one of the most important populations on the planet today: millennials.

Born between 1978 and 2000, millennials are unlike any generation that has come before. They are:

•  the largest population cohort (95 million strong in the U.S. alone)[1]

•  more college educated than any other generation (63 percent with Bachelor’s Degree)[2]

•  highly technologically connected (84 percent sleep with their cell phone)[3]

Their opinions matter and their passions run deep. Businesses asleep at the wheel will fail. Nations will be overturned. From Blockbuster Video to the Arab Spring, this changing power dynamic is already happening.

They are the future – and are at the forefront of massive amounts of wealth. A whopping USD $59 trillion in wealth will be inherited before 2061 in the U.S. alone[4]. In 2018, millennials will also overtake the baby boomers in terms of having the largest spending power of any generation (USD $2.75 Trillion)[5]. Nexus represents an unprecedented opportunity to shape the future of young wealth holder education and global philanthropy.

Survey results speak for themselves. Of participants surveyed from the 2013 Global Summit:

•  82 percent reported that they are more likely to engage in philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, or impact investing as a result of their experience

•  89 percent reported “a change in the way they see themselves and their role in addressing global problems”

•  86 percent reported that they were planning to support the projects of other Nexus members

•  95 percent wished to nominate young wealth-holders and social entrepreneurs for future Nexus events

As children of the information age, 84 percent of millennials believe making a positive difference is more important than professional recognition[6].

Read that again: 84 percent of millennials believe making a positive difference is more important than professional recognition.

We have a choice: To be fearful of the future and lament the youth of today as being ignorant, or uncaring, or both. Or to have faith in the next generation, this new generation, and support the spaces that will bring out their best and unleash their brilliant potential.

It has been said that this is the first generation with the opportunity to decide if it will be the last[7]. The challenges we face are massive and imminent – but so, perhaps, are the solutions. Nexus seeks to enable these solutions, and invites anyone that can, to be a part of it.

This year’s Summit will take place at the United Nations in New York City from July 23-26, 2014. Details at- www.nexusyouthsummit.org/global2014

Article by Brian Weinberg, the Nexus’ Global Operations Coordinator. Previously, he served on the investment team at MicroVest investing over USD $40 million in debt/equity investments across seven countries in Latin America. Brian also likes to start things. He founded justgood.org a marketplace that delivers happiness on demand. Other ventures include Blendedprofit.com, Givingtuesdaylive.org, Recycle to Eradicate Poverty, and a real estate firm. This work has garnered press coverage from organizations ranging from NPR to a documentary hosted by Jeff Foxworthy to partners like Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, Grameen Foundation, and the City of Dallas among others. Brian has been awarded a number of fellowships and awards, including the Ashoka Youth Venture Ambassadorship & Grantee, Clinton Global Initiative U Grantee, Starting Bloc Fellowship, Sandbox Fellowship, and the Opportunity Collaboration Cordes Fellowship. Brian also writes for the Huffington Post and CSRwire in addition to hosting GAMECHANGERS; a thought leader interview series designed to push a constructive dialogue forward on how to grow the good economy.

Article Notes:

[1]  Generation We, a 2008 book about youth.

[2]  http://bit.ly/1oqpiXa

[3]  http://bit.ly/1oqpcid

[4]  https://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/research_sites/cwp/pdf/Wealth%20Press%20Release%205.28-9.pdf?utm_source=National+Wealth+Transfer+Rpt+and+Press+Release&utm_campaign=May2014&utm_medium=email

[5]  http://bit.ly/1oqoJMQ

[6]  http://bit.ly/1oqoCRp

[7]  Anonymous quote

Where’s the Community Accountability in Impact Investing?

By Morgan Simon, Pi Investments

 

Morgan Simon

The concept of impact investment that has the explicit purpose of supporting economic and community development is receiving a growing amount of attention from an increasingly diverse set of financial players. This emerging trend is one of the most exciting, and potentially problematic, trends I’ve seen over the last decade. As with any new field, impact investing raises consequential questions and issues with the answers and intended results remaining up for grabs.

Let’s consider the following questions to start:

1. How is impact being defined, and by whom?

2. How are strategic opportunities being identified and defined, and by whom? How will impact capital be deployed, with what objectives, and toward what ends?

3. Under what conditions shall profits be made from impact investment? Who should govern the agreements about use and distribution of the profits?

I am concerned that in a drive for global scale in impact investment, we will lose the voices that should matter the most—the billions of people who will be affected by social enterprises funded by our investments. I am advocating for the establishment of effective mechanisms to empower “beneficiaries” to be actively involved in the planning, execution, governance, and ownership of enterprises, and in the flows of capital connected with them. I do so from two hats—as Managing Director of Pi Investments, a single family office focusing on 100% impact investments towards a generative and just economy, and as Founder and Chair of Transform Finance, a non-profit organization building a bridge between impact investment and social justice.

Current Problematic Trends in Impact Investment

There are several dynamics at play in the current impact investment market:

Investors and entrepreneurs may profit at the expense of communities.

The goal of impact investment for many is to have a social impact while being able to make the same kind of investment returns that conventional markets have provided. If that remains the case, and if the ownership of social enterprises remains limited to the privileged, then it is difficult to imagine that impact investments will ultimately benefit communities, or facilitate any sort of resource transfer from the global north to the global south (or in the US context, from the rich to poor). If ownership structures are not addressed, then by definition, these investments must be extracting value, thus repeating the cycle of exploitation that we have seen under so many different names over the decades. This is particularly apparent in the context of projects that see poor communities singularly as consumers rather than as participants in all aspects of the economy. There is an implicit, yet often unacknowledged, tension in impact investment between how producers are paid, how steeply consumers pay for products, and how much entrepreneurs and investors can make or expect to make over time.

Impact gets defined by investors and entrepreneurs instead of beneficiaries.

Some of the large financial institutions jumping on the impact bandwagon have made public statements defining impact as simply any investment made in a developing country. The many communities who have suffered from natural resource extraction, displacement and poor labor conditions know this is not the case, but they are not being consulted in the process of defining goals for impact investment projects. Similarly, well-meaning entrepreneurs tend to define community involvement as product research, such as holding marketing-based focus groups, rather than creating infrastructure for long-term engagement and community leadership development. This is largely due to the fact that impact investment has evolved as a “top down” industry—with investors setting the criteria for impact and returns with the consequences filtered down from social entrepreneurs to communities. In this approach there is little room for letting community needs guide the field.

There is a major “capital gap” for community-run projects.

Although many investment projects are executed in the global south, they are generally run by the privileged—these entrepreneurs and their investors are the ones who will receive the $183-$667 billion in profit that J.P. Morgan projects. It is, at this point, exceptionally rare to impossible for communities, organizations or individuals from the global south to receive access to funds if they do not speak English and have advanced degrees. Communities are simply the resource bases for projects; or, moreover, their involvement is generally limited to the consumption of specific products.

Capacity building is lacking.

Capacity building programs for social entrepreneurs to receive training and access to funding are plentiful, but similarly limited to a global elite. Further, there has been no effort to engage these programs in a broader conversation about the structuring of opportunities that would create access for people without a university education. Additionally, there is a need to explore methodologies that will respect and fit community leadership models already in place, rather than asking communities more accustomed to these collective structures to adopt Western business models. Finally, there is an urgent need for capacity-building programs working in developed countries to integrate a broader understanding of community organizing in their work in order to balance out the traditional business education social entrepreneurs tend to receive with a deep understanding of what community engagement looks like. The social entrepreneur indeed has a crucial role to play, but ideally would do more leading from behind than carrying the torch his or herself.

Signs of Hope—Innovative Impact Investment that Ensures Assets Stay in Communities.

At the same time that I see the potential greenwashing in the impact investment industry, I am deeply encouraged by the emerging group of entrepreneurs and investors that is finding ways of placing community needs first. Reflecting broader trends in the establishment of the solidarity economy globally, I see the emergence of what I call transformative finance.

Transformative Finance provides resources to projects that:

•  are primarily designed, managed and owned by those affected by these projects

•  are designed to add, rather than extract value from communities; and

•  balance risk and return between investors, entrepreneurs and communities.

Transformative finance projects are thoughtful about how to engage communities not just as producers or consumers, but also as leaders and change agents. They create explicit ownership structures that reflect this appreciation and intention. In their structural makeup, they create mechanisms of direct accountability to the communities they serve. They also ensure that productive assets remain community-owned and that the use of those assets is determined by the community for continued community development. These enterprises are still often led by dynamic social entrepreneurs, but in these cases they see their role as community organizers rather than top-down leaders.

One such leader is Brendan Martin, founder of The Working World, an organization based in Argentina, Nicaragua, and New York (and Pi Investee). The Working World provides innovative financing for worker-owned co-ops based on a co-determined business plan and revenue share that ensures value created stays primarily within the community. Over the past five years they have recycled $3M over 80 times into 600 investments, with a 98 percent repayment rate. Recently, The Working World raised capital from a number of investors to finance a sustainable green windows cooperative in Chicago.

More information can be found here: www.theworkingworld.org/us  and on Transform Finance at www.transformfinance.org . Transform Finance also launched a new investor and donor network to further explore these concepts at the White House on June 25.

What are your views on these topics? How do you achieve community accountability in your investment activity? Feel free to post any comments here, or to reach me at morgan@pi-investments.com

Article by Morgan Simon, who has spent the last decade engaged in impact investment, emphasizing community empowerment, leadership and ownership. She is a Managing Director at Pi Investments, a single-family office building a 100% impact portfolio with an emphasis on community empowerment and environmental sufficiency. In that capacity she evaluates investments across asset classes, including direct investments and funds.

Morgan is also a board member of Toniic, where she served as founding CEO from 2010-2013. Toniic is a global network of early-stage social investors looking to move $100M into impact. Toniic members share deal flow, due diligence and monitoring on global investments in this action-oriented community. She is the chair of the investment committee for The Working World, a fund for stakeholder-owned businesses in the US, Argentina and Nicaragua, and on the board of ROC United, a worker center supporting 10,000 restaurant workers nationwide. She is also the Founder and Chair of Transform Finance, bridging impact investment and social justice.

Previously, as the founding Executive Director of the Responsible Endowments Coalition, Morgan brought together 100 colleges and universities from across the country, helping to move their $200 billion in endowment dollars towards impact investment. Morgan has also worked with grassroots organizations and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Mexico, Honduras and Sierra Leone, and in domestic microfinance with Women’s Initiative for Self Employment. She received a B.A with High Honors in Economics and Political Science from Swarthmore College.

Millennials: Changing The Investment Conversation

By Justin Conway, Calvert Foundation

 

Justin Conway, Calvert Foundation

Calvert Foundation

Amidst all the talk about the trillions of dollars in wealth transfer and flood of stats coming-out about millennials, I thought I’d spend some time talking about what I see millennial investors doing as it relates to investing. I do so from my role at Calvert Foundation, working with investors, their financial advisors, their brokerage firms, and the entrepreneurs and organizations creating local solutions in their communities. I also do so as a millennial myself, if you allow for the term to refer to those born in the earliest quoted starting window of 1978 – 2000 as many do, and I’ll ride my borderline millennial status to use “we” throughout. While we have very diverse perspectives, I certainly identify with the studies that say millennials are more inclined to want their jobs, purchases, and investments to have a positive impact on the world. Here are some of the exciting things I already see millennials bringing to investing.

Millennials are Getting Involved in Investing Earlier

Many of us have recognized earlier on that how we spend and invest our money has an impact. Some see this as small, some recognize it as significant, but we’re more likely to have learned something along the way about finance and economics to at least know it’s important and be curious about it. We often question the sometimes traditionally held notion that investing is separate from other aspects of our lives and best handled by professionals without much involvement from us. Many of us are eager to learn about investing and what it can do for us personally and our communities.

I see this curiosity in millennials testing the waters, so to speak, with their money. We’re growing-up with websites like Kiva, Indiegogo, and Kickstarter, allowing us to put small amounts of money toward people and projects we are interested in, and in some cases are our friends’ ventures. That ability to conveniently engage financially is translating to how we invest as well – from choosing a bank, to looking for investment ideas and ultimately to investing. At Calvert Foundation, we see college students starting to invest $20 to $100 in support of issues they care about, and years later those same people investing more when they have more. It will be interesting to see if and how that trend continues.

Overall, I see more millennials thinking about aligning their money with their lives. At various points they are making time to learn about investing. Managing finances and investments has rapidly become more convenient, making it easier to stay up to speed on them, so much so that investing is becoming a more regular part of our lives. I think this holds true even if we don’t consider ourselves “investors” with the investments we’re making.

Millennials are Connecting with Friends and Family About Investing

Investing becomes more convenient in the technological and social sharing revolutions we are now part of. Millennials are more likely to be embracing these technologies, and as such are connected to more people than ever before. We see the networking opportunities leading to fossil fuel divestment campaigns and impact investment clubs at colleges, and more recent graduates looking to break into impact investment as a career path or focus of graduate study. The many connections might not always be the deepest of relationships, but we have significant networks in which to learn from and influence.

Beyond the large networks, one of the most exciting trends I see is millennials talking with their families about investing. This sometimes starts out rocky, but I’ve seen it create deeper connections across generations. More families are now talking about what matters to them individually and as a whole, bringing ideas to the table (literally), and discussing how their financial resources serve not only the financial needs of the family, but also higher callings and legacies they would like to leave.

Much has been said about millennials wanting a higher purpose in their careers, which I see as being similar to the significant number of baby boomers that are now looking to find more purpose in their lives. These opportunities for connecting on financial decisions present opportunities to bring families closer together and get investments more impact-aligned well before wealth transfers happen.

Millennials are Looking for More from Their Financial Advisors

Working with investors and financial advisors, I see millennials looking for relationships with their advisors. No, not necessarily to become good friends, but wanting financial partners that listen, take time to explain opportunities and answer questions, bounce ideas, and going on this financial journey together. In some ways, investors have always wanted this from their advisors, but I see millennials taking this up a notch. Just as we often have an aversion to labels (like “millennials”), we often don’t like off-the-shelf investment strategies. Many of us want to work collaboratively with our advisors to create both a trusting relationship and an investment approach tailored to our specific needs and interests.

Relationship building is important for advisors and their businesses too, especially because only a low percentage of inheritors keep their parents’ financial advisors. Additionally, we millennials have not been overly impressed by the stock market in our lifetime. We are looking for someone that can help us navigate stocks, as well as other options like real assets, which many of us are more interested in. One of the challenges advisors face is that whatever investment recommendations are made, we’re probably going to research them on our own and ask other trusted partners and advisors about what they think until we’re really comfortable with it.

What Does This Mean for Impact Investing

The good news is that the impact investment industry is developing in order to meet the current and upcoming demand from millennials and other investors. More strategies and products are being developed, and access to them is becoming more democratized. For financial professionals who’ve long sought options, not only are more coming, but the significant barriers to entry that impact investments face in gaining access to the financial services industry are more known, and therefore more innovative conversations are taking place on how to overcome them.

For Calvert Foundation, we’ve learned that people are much more inclined to learn about, discuss, and invest in the places and impact themes they are most interested in. A couple of years ago, Calvert Foundation launched its Women Investing in Women Initiative (WIN-WIN) (http://bit.ly/ULQFhm ) because we understood that investing in women was a smart investment for many reasons. We were hoping people would want to invest with a gender lens, and we were amazed at the response: with little fanfare and in a surprisingly short time, more than 800 investors helped us channel $20 million to organizations managed by and serving women around the world. From health clinics and supportive housing in the U.S., to helping more women gain access to clean cook stoves and farming skills around the world, investors were anxious to support women’s economic development. More than 83% of our WIN-WIN investors invested online, and more than 70% of those that have followed the campaign through social media are between the ages of 25-44…much lower in age than our traditional investor base.

From that experience, Calvert Foundation has shifted to focusing on other ways to actively engage investors in supporting community needs in the places they care about. We just helped launch local investment initiatives in Denver and the Twin Cities at www.OursToOwn.org, along with creating a new online investment platform at Vested that allows people to invest $20 or more in support of these and other programs. We’ve begun matching our portfolio demand to what investors can support, so sectors like affordable housing, education, small business, and fair trade are available now. Newer initiatives around global health and engaging diaspora communities, along with other cities initiatives, are in the works. These options are also available to investors through their brokerage accounts. Through this work, Calvert Foundation hopes to shed light on the great work being done by local community organizations and bring helpful investment capital to them.

Beyond Calvert Foundation, more options are either here or coming, including options from TriLinc Global and ImpactAssets supporting entrepreneurial activity internationally, and all the crowdfunding opportunities that are opening-up domestically. I can now easily invest online in real estate in my Washington DC community through Fundrise and solar energy projects through multiple platforms, with many more innovative opportunities around the corner. Beyond the products and platforms, organizations like US SIF and the Global Impact Investing Network are creating the education, policies, and overall infrastructure necessary for impact investing to scale.

Changing Investment Conversations and Actions

I see millennials interest in investing and the efforts to democratize impact investing as an important intersection that will change investment conversations and actions. The strength in numbers and dollars from millennials that are more inclined to have a positive impact on the world, and the older generations they are influencing and being influenced by, will hopefully re-frame investing to more actively consider the challenges our world faces. I see the newer questions and critiques of traditional approaches from more people, both young and old, as helping investment conversations to evolve to talk about risk, return, value, growth, etc. in more holistic ways that consider the positive and negative impacts of our decisions. We millennials are a diverse bunch and we’re not “saviors” by any stretch of the imagination, but the good news is that many more of us are not waiting to acquire wealth to influence how investing is done.

Article by Justin Conway, the Vice President of Investment Partnerships at Calvert Foundation ( www.calvertfoundation.org ), and President of Calvert Foundation’s wholly owned subsidiary and registered investment advisor, Community Investment Partners. He manages the firm’s financial services and distribution relationships, leads the investor relations and marketing team, and works closely with the investors and financial advisors that are at the forefront of using investment capital for social good.

Justin serves on the Board of US SIF, the membership association for financial professionals engaged in sustainable and responsible investing, as well as numerous other advisory boards and committees in the industry.

Previously Justin managed the Community Investment Program of the Social Investment Forum and Green America, and worked on human rights in both Asia and Central America. He received a Master’s in Applied Economics from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor’s in Sociology and Statistics from James Madison University.

An Open Letter to the Financial Services Industry From a Concerned Millennial

By Liesel Pritzker Simmons, Blue Haven Initiative

Liesel Pritzker SimmonsAs a millennial, I have recently noticed a flurry of studies, articles, and reports about my generation, authored by a diverse range of interested parties. Quite a bit of the pure sociological data suggests that the 80 million of us born between 1980 and 2000 are narcissistic, lazy, and optimistic to the point of being delusional – it’s enough to make me want to delete that selfie!

Interestingly, the selfish characteristics so rampant in the sociological studies seem to dissipate when researchers start looking at how we Millennials spend our time and money. We want our work to have meaning for ourselves and the world, and we place a higher value on consumer goods that have some sort of beneficial social or environmental impact. Climate change is not a debate for us, and we probably still nag our parents about separating the trash from the recycling. Although we are generally more conservative in our investment decisions than previous generations (can you blame us?), we are willing to take on more financial risk if it increases exposure to ESG impact. Impact Assets recently authored this excellent Issue Brief (http://bit.ly/1usAobt) outlining many of the attitudes of millennial investors.

There is little doubt in my mind that the plethora of studies on Millennials, and particularly the way they intend to invest their money, will continue to multiply, for underpinning nearly every report is one essential, ubiquitous fact: Millennials will inherit over $30 trillion from the baby boomers in North America alone. This is the largest transfer of wealth the world has seen to date, and it could present an enormous opportunity for the financial services industry. If only advisors knew what these selfish, self-less Millennials wanted to do with their assets…?

To add anecdotes to data, my own motivations as a millennial investor stem from a few formative experiences that fundamentally shaped my worldview. I grew up in a very wealthy family, but one that valued hard work and giving back. I was brought up with a firm understanding that I had an obligation to help leave the world a little better than I found it – with great fortune comes great responsibility, to misquote FDR and Uncle Ben from Spiderman. When I inherited control over my assets at age 21, I wrestled with what to do. Like many who inherit wealth they did not create, I view my role as a steward – though I may be making decisions regarding its management, this wealth is not “mine”.

Rich White Girl Goes to Africa

Confused and curious, I decided to start reading and traveling. I read Amartya Sen while volunteering in India, Jeffrey Sachs and Muhammad Yunus while working at a microfinance institution in Tanzania. It was the first time I really witnessed that level of extreme poverty, and it made me feel even more unworthy of all the wealth I was born into.

More than anything else, though, I was moved by the people I met and the complexity of their lives. Examining daily cash flows, asking women how they thought about savings or paying school fees, how they made decisions when emergencies arose – I was humbled by how complicated it all was. And markets were everywhere – even in the most impoverished places, I saw clear evidence of financial problem solving and ingenuity. I know how cliché this sounds: Rich White Girl Goes to Africa, Has Life-Changing Experience. But alas! There it is.

I returned from these experiences, energized and eager to help. So I took a portion of my assets and started a foundation, because that’s what rich people do when they are energized and eager to help. Under my mother’s leadership, the IDP (Innovation, Development, Progress) Foundation has become a leader in the low cost private school movement, focusing on expanding educational opportunities in Ghana and other parts of the world. And while I am very, very proud of the work the foundation has done, over time I found myself feeling constrained by the limits of philanthropy and aid. Many of my experiences and frustrations have been corroborated by the work of economists like Dambisa Moyo, who cites compelling data about the ineffectiveness of some aid-based development. Programs start and stop, funding agendas change, and many well-intentioned “interventions” are designed halfway around the world from the very communities they aim to help. Oftentimes, aid reduces systemic issues into technical problems that can be “solved” with two-year interventions. There didn’t seem to be much space for dignity – or the indigenous problem solving I had witnessed.

What I found to be particularly bizarre, however, was the disconnection between the talk and the action. At many philanthropy conferences, I would hear the buzzwords: We should be engaging in “strategic”, “catalytic”, “venture” philanthropy that seeks “measurable”, “scalable”, “operationally sustainable”, “market-based” solutions to the world’s problems. It seemed odd to me… If there was a growing consensus that aid should be administered like business, well, why don’t we just simply do business?? Let’s stop talking like first year MBAs and just do it.

This was the real light bulb for me. But let me be clear – I don’t think all philanthropy is bad or ineffectual. Indeed, philanthropy can take risks and prove concepts. It can fund research and pick up the pieces when disaster strikes. And philanthropy can “buy down” risk in order to attract market-rate capital to help address chronic social problems. Some very important parts of society, such as the arts, will always need at least some philanthropy to recognize meaning and value where the market does not.

What I realized, however, is that philanthropy simply isn’t enough. I needed to use all the resources I had at my disposal to help scale solutions for a broad set of stakeholders. So I set out to learn as much as I could about how to leverage business and finance as a means for social impact.

Profit with Purpose

Luckily for me, there were already many, many examples of how good business practices can generate real value for communities all over the world. People were experimenting with creative ways to share that value, through innovative ownership structures like the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and new corporate structures like Benefit Corporations. There were financial products that cater to these types of businesses through funds or debt facilities. I can barely keep up with all the new reports and conferences about impact investing. Even the large banking institutions seem to be in an arms race over new Social Impact Bond issuances!

As I began exploring these exciting new products and started to reinvest my portfolio in alignment with my beliefs and interest in impact, there was another experience that would fundamentally reshape my profile as an investor – the financial crisis. I was 24 in 2008, and my peers and I stood stunned as we watched markets collapse, risk assumptions crumble, and “uncorrelated” asset classes suddenly all…correlate—in the wrong direction!

This experience has had a profound effect on my generation. Some studies on millennial investors point out that we prefer to invest in physical assets over the stock market. And we are less trusting of advice from financial advisors – we will seek out many more opinions on financial decisions than previous generations did. The financial crisis occurred early enough in our lives that we haven’t really experienced anything else – this is our normal.

Some Friendly Advice for Financial Advisors

All of these experiences – as an inheritor, a philanthropist, a millennial, have deeply shaped how I think about investing and the ultimate purpose of capital. Several years ago, my husband and I formed Blue Haven Initiative, a family office managing a diversified international investment portfolio. We invest with high standards, always seeking to optimize financial return together with social and environmental performance. And though I do not deign to think I am speaking for my generation, I do believe some of these thoughts might be helpful for those who hope to advise a piece of the $30 trillion coming down the pike.

Stop talking about trade-offs.Like many in my generation, I want to do good and do well; I want profit with purpose. We don’t have to settle for one or the other. I know Milton Friedman didn’t think it was possible. Spoiler alert: Milton Friedman is not our idol.

We want to create value, real value. I want my investments to help improve livelihoods for communities. I want to help improve the land we live on. I want to help reduce waste or carbon emissions. Sustainable, long-term financial return can only be generated by improving social or environmental value, not extracting it.

We have to broaden our definition of risk. Investors like me are not satisfied with the traditional definition of risk – standard deviation and variability of returns. I think that is way too narrow. Hopefully, we will still be alive in 50 years, and that smog-filled, diabetes-riddled world we are creating sounds awfully expensive to me, regardless of how much my portfolio outperformed its benchmarks in Q3 2014. When we decide not to price in the negative impacts of our investments today, we are creating more risk (that someone will have to pay for) down the road.

And most importantly, let’s finally acknowledge that every investment we make has an impact on the world around us. Let’s make it a good one!

 

Article by Liesel Pritzker Simmons, Co-founder and Principal of Blue Haven Initiative (bluehaveninitiative.com) a family office dedicated to investing for-profit and non-profit capital to solve social problems. BHI looks across asset classes and capital types to find solutions-oriented opportunities both in the US and in developing markets.

She is the Co-founder of the IDP Foundation, Inc. (www.idpfoundation.org )a private foundation with a mission to mobilize resources and strategic support to increase educational opportunities. Established in 2008, the IDP Foundation has supported and developed a wide range of programs in the education sectors most notably the innovative IDP Rising Schools Program in Ghana, which leverages microfinance networks to empower nearly 200 low cost private schools with trainings and financial services. Pritzker Simmons is a Co-Founder of Opportunity International’s Young Ambassadors for Opportunity (YAO), a global network of young professionals who are passionate about microfinance. She serves on the boards of Waste Enterprisers, Eco-Post, and Synergos. Pritzker Simmons attended Columbia University, where she studied African History. She lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband, Ian Simmons.

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