Every day brings news of human struggle and environmental crisis. Reports of wildfires, dying lakes, children without access to education, and tent cities of the working homeless spur the urge to help—but the problems are complex and often thousands of miles away. This combination can leave us feeling powerless.
Yet for many of the most challenging problems we face, there are proven solutions that we can support in a tangible way.
American Homeowner Preservation has developed a way to help struggling homeowners by leveraging the power of crowd sourced funding. Since 2008, AHP has helped hundreds of families across the country (and in Puerto Rico) resolve unaffordable mortgage debts and remain in the homes and communities they love.
Like many who have been touched by AHP, Joe Willie Hart had fallen behind on his mortgage due to severe illness. Although he recovered and eventually returned to work, the hefty interest and penalty charges were insurmountable. He started planning for the worst: foreclosure and eviction.
This article from NI’s Andy Loving was originally published in the February 2015 edition of the Green Money Journal. It offers some much-needed perspective on the recent surge of mainstream investment interest in ESG measures, which is often celebrated as being synonymous with SRI and its historic goals. Andy begs to differ.
I have spent my 20-year career as a financial advisor working with people who want their faith and their values to be reflected in their use and investment of their money. From the beginning, I have been a socially responsible investing advisor to organize money for social change, while serving the needs and commitments of my clients.
But today’s social investing marketplace is increasingly driven by ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) investments. The social investing “tent” has indeed gotten much bigger and, in the process, many strongly held values that my clients and I have seen as so important now seem unimportant, or at least less important, to many in the industry. Growth often results in increasing diversity, which can be a good thing. But in the changes in the social investing industry, certain values and priorities have been de-emphasized to the point that the character of the industry is significantly changed.
Information in the recently published 10th edition of the US SIF Trends Report on SRI documents concerns. The headline news of the Trends Report is, of course, the 76 percent increase over two years of U.S.-domiciled assets under management using SRI strategies. The jump from $3.74 trillion in 2012 to $6.57 trillion in 2014 was startling, encouraging and almost unbelievable. But of that more recent number, $6.2 trillion were assets where ESG factors only were being incorporated into investment decisions. There was no involvement in shareholder activism and community/impact investing.
These numbers indicate that many mainline money managers now believe ESG factors can and do influence the financial bottom line, making ESG material to profit maximization. The mainline Wall Street firms are finally believing what the SRI industry has been saying for decades.
The report also contains information about two other important areas of activity – shareholder advocacy and community investing/impact investing – where the news is not quite so encouraging.
Our very own James Frazier is a movie star! Well, maybe he’s not the only one who can point to an online video with pride, but we’re excited to see him sharing his great work as part of a vibrant community economy in his home town of Port Townsend, Washington. Port Townsend is home to LION: the Local Investing Opportunities Network, which allows local citizens to make loans to local small businesses. The work was featured on Peak Moment TV, which features video journalism on “locally reliant living for challenging times,” and on Treehugger. You can check out James’ star turn — we mean, thoughtful and forward-looking comments — on either of those sites, or right here:
Here at Natural Investing, we’ve been mighty inspired by the Slow Money movement from the moment Woody Tasch began sharing his earliest ponderings. So we’re especially excited to be one of several sponsors of the 3rd Slow Money National Gathering, taking place in San Francisco this fall.
Here’s how they describe themselves:
Is Slow Money an investment strategy or a movement? Yes! It’s a new kind of social investing for the 21st century. Slow Money national gatherings are quickly emerging as a significant new venue for networking, investing and social change. More than 1000 people from 34 states and several foreign countries attended our first two national gatherings, and more than $4.25 million has been invested in 16 of the small food enterprises that have presented. Since last year’s event at Shelburne Farms, Vermont, 11 local Slow Money chapters have begun investing in their regions.
Join this emerging network of thought leaders, investors, donors, entrepreneurs, farmers, and activists for our Third National Gathering this October in San Francisco, and collaborate with folks from around the country who are finding new ways to connect money, culture and the soil.
Hal loved the first national gathering, which he wrote about here. We encourage our clients and readers to join Natural Investing’s Christopher Peck in San Francisco for this year’s event! Click on through here for more details. And, check this link for a collection of Natural Investing Blog posts that have featured Slow Money on both the national and local levels.
Those of you who have followed my columns over the years know that Allison and I started a green “intentional neighborhood” here in Paonia back in 2001 (www.hawkshavenllc.com). Since my name, Hal, is forever associated with the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, I should have suspected that I was embarking on a green development odyssey. After nine years of jumping through hoops, we’re finally moving some dirt. This year’s project is a super-insulated, earth-bermed garage and upstairs studio, crowned with a 3 kilowatt solar system. We’re psyched!
Before we design and build the main house, we need to get up to speed on what’s new in the world of eco-home building. So I signed up for a Natural Building conference focused on creating high-performance homes using earthen, plant- based, or recycled materials. What I came away with was not so much new building techniques, but a renewed commitment to living lightly on the planet.
Energy activist Randy Udall came to speak fresh off a backpacking trip. He reminded us that it would only take two degrees of global warming to change Colorado’s alpine wonders (and the planet) into a bleaker habitat than we enjoy today. Randy’s outlook was sobering: Science magazine reported that even if we stopped building new CO2-emitting infrastructure today (no new cars, no new fossil-fuel power plants…an impossible scenario!), we’re still cooked. The “inertia” from using what is already built will raise CO2 levels to the point that we’ll be perilously close to that 2 degree rise in temperature. In other words, everything new that we add to the planet really needs to be carbon neutral. In the context of natural building, this means building smaller, smarter homes that conserve resources and produce their own energy.
Of course buildings are just one piece of the solution. Pretty much every human activity needs to undergo a similar trans- formation. This seems enormous – and it is! – but I humbly offer one insight about how this could happen: Everything we see in the human-made world began as an investment. The tools of Natural Investing, if widely applied, would shift the economy towards one that values long-term ecological health. To paraphrase Gandhi, we need to invest in the change we wish to see in the world.
Udall next touched on other trends that might alter the bleak greenhouse gas forecast.
Loving contrasts conventional investing — Wall Street economics — with what he calls “Sabbath economics.” With one, it’s all about getting the greatest possible return. With the other, the point is creating the greatest possible good while netting a good return in the process. “There’s enough for everybody’s need,” Loving says, “just not for everybody’s greed.”
The Green Wave is coming.That’s what Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green for All, told us at last week’s SRI in the Rockies conference.The question isn’t will it come, the question is, will America participate and will it help people rise out of poverty?Green for All is poised to help America ride this wave in a very big way.They’ve got eight billion dollars of federal stimulus money and a lot of passion and good ideas and are working very hard to implement plans that will put this money to use in the most effective ways possible to meet their twin goals of green jobs creation in a clean energy economy and moving people out of poverty.
Green for All was founded by one of my heroes, Van Jones, a pioneering force in human rights and the clean energy economy, and former special advisor for green jobs at the White House’s Council for Environmental Quality, as well as author of The Green Collar Economy.He has been a voice of drawing awareness to the global climate crisis and its disproportionate impact on the poor.
By Michael Kramer This article first appeared in the Fall 2006 edition of the Natural Investing newsletter
In the 15 months since hurricanes devastated the Gulf Coast Region, natural investors have participated in revitalizing communities through investing in affordable housing, minority-owned businesses, and redeveloping urban and rural areas torn apart by the storms.
Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) have channeled capital to low-income and displaced populations traditionally underserved by conventional banks, providing credit to those who have insufficient income or lack credit or collateral. This assistance has been and continues to be critical for those hardest hit by Katrina. Because the CDFIs were already in these communities, they had the infrastructure and relationships in place to offer immediate and prolonged help throughout the recovery effort.
Natural Investment Services (NIS) investors have to date invested over $2.2 million in this community investing initiative through two primary vehicles: CRA Qualified Investment Fund and Calvert Community Investment Notes.