As the Natural Investments team prepares for our annual Conference on Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing, I find myself reflecting on how much has changed in just one year. Last year’s conference convened the day after the U.S. presidential election. Although we were all in utter shock at the outcome, the members of our SRI community quickly settled into the realization that our work as activists on issues of climate change and social justice would be critical, since it was clear that government policy would no longer be supporting our trajectory.
Sure enough, here we are today, with the Paris Climate Accord teetering on the orange ledge, with Obama’s Clean Power Plan gutted, the Standing Rock water keeper camp razed, and the fires, hurricanes, and floods of our worst nightmares. It’s depressing. But as Valarie Kaur, one of my favorite civil rights activists, suggests, “What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb? What if our America is not dead but a country that is waiting to be born?”
In November, several of our Natural Investments team attended the Conference on Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing in Colorado. In the wake of the Trump’s victory, many of us felt initially devastated and depressed but we quickly found ourselves galvanized and inspired by each other and the recognition that our work as social and environmental activists will be all the more important in the coming years. One of the most inspiring presentations at the conference was a talk given by the authors of The New Grand Strategy—a powerful economic and investment plan for America’s future that identifies sustainability as the organizing logic for the nation. Remarkably, this vision came out of the Pentagon and is expected to be an important influence on America’s future under the Trump administration and beyond.
The story of the New Grand Strategy began in 2008, when Admiral Eric Olson, the Commander of U.S. Special Operations, was frustrated that the military was engaged in seemingly endless wars. The U.S. first crafted a so-called Grand Strategy during World War II, with fascism being identified as the primary global threat; it was adapted later in response to the Russia and the rise of communism. Olson recognized that the old Grand Strategy was no longer working to America’s advantage and wanting to get U.S. soldiers “out from under the sound of the guns”, he directed Colonel Mark “Puck” Mckleby and Navy Captain Wayne Porter to develop a proposal or “narrative” for a fresh guiding strategy for US global operations.
Through their lens as military officers it was clear that national security is no longer simply about threats from other countries and maintaining our primacy over these threatening forces via force and power. They realized that the world actually operates more as an ecology in an open system, and that the “big wicked problem” of our times is the widespread lack of sustainability within that system.
Amy is an award winning journalist and editor who writes about topics spanning business, finance & food. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Business Week, Conscious Company, and B Magazine among many other publications. Her book, Locavesting, was one of the pioneering works on the emerging local investing and community capital movement. It draws upon her experience covering diverse realms to explore how a small shift in investment away from multinationals towards locally-owned enterprises can reap enormous economic and social benefits for individuals, their communities and the country. More recently, she founded Locavesting.com, a media and educational site. Based in Brooklyn, Amy has been name a “Top 30 Crowdfunding Thought Leader,” and was present at the historic April 2012 Rose Garden signing of the JOBS Act.
Nia Community Investment Fund | Founder & Director
Kristin founded Nia Community Investments in 2010. Nia Community is focused on consciously investing for social justice and environmental sustainability in Oakland. She began her career as a bilingual educator and later co-founded the North Oakland Community Charter School. Interested in innovative solutions for social change, Kristin entered the field of impact investing while serving as a board member for various non-profit organizations, including the Mosaic Project and the Nicholson Foundation. In 2013 she partnered with Domini Social Investments to create Nia Global Solutions, an innovative stock portfolio bringing impact investing offerings to Public Markets. In 2015, Nia Global Solutions formed a new partnership with Green Alpha Advisors to provide leadership in sustainable and impact investing for individuals, advisors and institutions. Kristin earned her B.A. and teaching credentials at Tufts University in 1990, her M.A. in Research in Bilingual Education from Stanford University in 1995 and her Ph.D. in Urban Education from the University of California at Berkeley in 2006.
In mid-September, I travelled to San Francisco to participate in the annual Social Capital Markets conference known as SoCap. In its ninth year, SoCap describes itself as the place “where the global community using business as a force for social change gathers to listen to each other, and to learn, and to get things done.” I last attended SoCap three years ago, and was pleased to see how much the event has grown and evolved in that span of time. There were over 2500 people in attendance, from 60 different countries. They represented impact investment funds, international community development organizations, regenerative agriculture projects, and social enterprises, all focused on addressing critical issues like global poverty alleviation, social justice, and climate change, and the conversations were inspiring. Important questions were asked, and moving calls to action were made.
As we’ve seen Impact Investing begin to move dramatically into the mainstream, I was heartened to hear SoCap bring to the fore the priority of ensuring that the social and environmental goals at the heart of Impact Investing don’t become overshadowed by the drive of the extractive economic model currently dominating our financial system. With a huge focus on inclusive strategies for investing, there was deep attention given to addressing racial and gender inequities within our capital system, and how to transition from an Extractive Economy to a Regenerative one.
Donna Katzin is the founding Executive Director of Shared Interest. From 1986 until July of 1994, she served as Director of South Africa and International Justice Programs for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. In that capacity she worked with religious bodies, institutional investors and community organizations to exert economic pressure to end apartheid, promote responsible reinvestment after apartheid, and to advance social criteria for domestic and international lending. She holds a master’s degree in Community Organization and Planning, and a doctorate in Human Services Education and Development. She is a board member of the Thembani International Guarantee Fund, and Housing for HIV.
Green Century Capital Management | President, Member, Board of Directors
Ms. Samuelrich leads Green Century Capital Management, focusing on the firm’s current and emerging investment strategies, business development, and impact investing program. She is a frequent speaker on impact, gender-lens, and environmentally sustainable investing. Prior to joining Green Century, Ms. Samuelrich served as the Chief of Staff at Corporate Accountability International and Executive Director of Green Corps. Leslie earned a BA in economics from Boston College and currently serves on the Board of Directors for US SIF, the membership association for professionals, firms, institutions and organizations engaged in sustainable, responsible, and impact investing, as well as the Advisory Board of the Intentional Endowments Network.
Green Century Capital Management| Marketing and Strategic Analysis
Working from Green Century Capital Management’s Seattle and Bay Area offices, Ms. Gray supports financial advisors on the west coast, coordinates sustainable investing event participation and leads special analytical projects. Prior to joining Green Century more than a decade ago, Ms. Gray performed financial analysis for an environmental consulting firm and worked at a public accounting firm. She earned her BA from Smith College and her MBA and Masters of Environmental Management from Yale University.
I am pleased to have a few letters behind my name these days: CPWA®, which stands for Certified Private Wealth Advisor®. During 2015, I undertook the Investment Management Consultants Association’s (IMCA®) rigorous CPWA program and successfully passed the exam to earn the title. The Certified Private Wealth Advisor credential is an advanced certification created specifically for financial advisors who work with high-net-worth clients on the life cycle of wealth: accumulation, preservation, and distribution. Intended for current practitioners already working with high-net-worth clients, CPWA designees must have a full five years of work in the field under their belts.
From early on in my career, I’ve been pushed along by a handful of wonderful clients who presented me with the challenge and opportunity to master some of the more complex planning needs that can come along with wealth:
As Hawaii considers the ramifications of a contentious sale of its major utility companies to giant Florida-based utility company NextEra, Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) stands out as an alternative model of utility ownership, and is leading the way in expanding renewable energy production. In early September, I visited with Jim Kelly of the KIUC to learn more about the cooperative and its approach.
As a cooperative, the utility provider is entirely owned by its members—its employees and customers—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. With a strong commitment to renewables, KIUC has utilized multiple strategies to increase its green energy capacity. From Power Purchase Agreements made with owners of large renewable energy facilities—including a solar array owned by Greenbacker Renewable Energy, a company in which many NI clients are investors—to directly investing in the construction of member-owned facilities, the cooperative is well on its way to achieving its goal of 50% renewables by 2023.
With the completion this year of its second 12 megawatt solar facility in Anahola,