Our overarching goal at Natural Investments is protecting the planet and developing innovative solutions to work in harmony with mother nature and human society. It includes building a culture that works for everyone by supporting women, Indigenous Peoples, People of Color and other underserved communities. As of 2021, Natural Investments has directed $188 million into 66 private entities supporting the public good for people and planet in a regenerative economy. More than 40% are companies led by women, while a quarter are BIPOC-led.
Posts Tagged ‘resilient investing’
Putting Non-Extractive Finance into Practice
When investors hear the word “cooperative” it should immediately convey the idea of working together toward a common goal. Headquartered in New York City and working in communities across the country, Seed Commons is a cooperative, or democratically run financial organization, that is reimagining finance and lending. It uses non-extractive finance vehicles to support communities to repair their local economies by building businesses that meet community needs.
My conversation with Esther Park of Cienega Capital for my Smart & Soulful Money® podcast brought me more clarity and also opened my thinking to what’s possible. I hope it does something similar for you! A few of my takeaways from our conversation include a more grounded idea of change based on growing up through the cracks (spaces of possibility) and how powerful and transformative this type of change can be. Part of this is a “whole systems” perspective—the opposite of monoculture ways of thinking and implementing.
Also, there is so much power and opportunity stored away in charitable foundations and other structures like donor-advised funds. Opening the flow of these resources, in a way that is wise and inclusive, can mean critical transformation for addressing so many needs we have—from climate change to racial equity to the many social needs of our day. We don’t have to be Rockefellers to be a part of creating (and incubating!) systemic changes.
Federal monetary and fiscal policies buoyed the stock market during the pandemic, but they did not keep millions of American families from sliding below the poverty line. Yet daily news commentaries tracking quarterly earnings and shareholder profits have painted a rosy picture of the 2021 economic recovery. The latest plan by the Biden Administration to help economically struggling families is a step in the right direction, but the proposed measures are not enough to address the threats posed by the extreme wealth disparity in the US that began to take hold decades ago.
2020 will go down in history as a year of profound disruption. One crisis after another exposed the mortal consequences of racial inequities––beginning with a pandemic in which people of color were far more likely to die than white Americans and a series of brutal police killings of unarmed Black civilians. These painful events spurred a national uprising, led by the Movement for Black Lives and supported by thousands of allied groups across the country, that has since been characterized by scholars as the largest mass movement in US history.
Scientists been clear that in order to prevent some of the runaway effects of climate change, it’s not enough to simply reduce our dependence on fossil-fuels: we also have to draw down and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Radically shifting the way we use and manage land is integral in tackling the climate crisis, and the choices we make around forest management offer significant potential to mitigate global climate change and biodiversity loss.
Forests cover about 31% of Earth’s global land area, and a quarter of them lie in the temperate zone (mostly in the Northern Hemisphere). Today, 99% of temperate forests have been altered in some way—timbered, converted to agriculture, or disrupted by development. Project Drawdown considers temperate forest restoration
It can be overwhelming to think about the ways that our values and money interact in our lives. Some people might know they want their money to create positive impact but feel unsure of where to start. Unless we bring intention and clarity to our money life, the money flowing through our lives may be fueling human suffering and environmental destruction.
What do we do with this knowledge? If we are able to work on our relationship with money, we can learn to engage with money so that it becomes not just neutral but positive. Money can even become a sacred tool for good if we use it purposefully to support a positive vision—for our own lives and in the bigger world.
This article is from our archives as part of the 100th issue special, celebrating twenty-five years of quarterly newsletters.
A reflection on how our founders came to “natural investing” over thirty years ago, planting the seeds for today’s vibrant Natural Investments group, which includes twenty advisors all across the U.S. helping clients manage a half billion dollars in regenerative and conscious capital.
Photo: Jack Brill, founder of Natural Investments, with his son and partner Hal Brill.
“Yes, this is Mr. Brill, rep number 638, with an order to sell 4,000 shares of Exxon at market.” I completed the trade for my client and stepped out of my office with a satisfied smile. I had just helped a conscientious investor divest herself from a company whose environmental transgressions offended her. And look where I was! The Wall Street clerk taking my order must have pictured me in a stuffy brokerage suite with ticker tapes flashing. But in 1992 I had taken refuge in a relic travel trailer parked on a friend’s high desert acreage outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Along the south side I built an arching sunroom with straw-bale walls. A 500-foot extension cord and phone line snaked through the pinyon and juniper trees, linking me and my laptop to the world. I wore Guatemalan shorts to work, not a pinstriped suit.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP): who isn’t used to hearing about the ups and downs of this metric, commonly understood as the most important indicator of economic health? This statistic—the monetary value of finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders over a specific period—and the pursuit of its growth is embedded at the center of mainstream economic theory. But the question of whether GDP is still a meaningful metric in a world of persistent income inequality, intractable environmental challenges, and human exploitation is at the heart of Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. Despite the title, this book offers a thoughtful, practical advice that any concerned citizen can use.
As frontrunners of the socially responsible investing movement, we at Natural Investments are “resilient investors” who are working off a radical new map of the investing universe. We invite you to navigate your own path across this vast terrain. But before we start exploring the nooks and crannies, let’s take a moment to ask the fundamental question: why invest?
Some would say this is obvious—we invest to build wealth. And what’s the point of building wealth? To be secure? To then build even more security and more wealth? Isn’t that what we all want? Well, no, at least not in the way it’s usually presented. While we take it as a given that most people want to increase their financial assets (at least up to a point) and have some nice things, traditional measurements of personal wealth are inadequate, often ignoring that which gives us the most satisfaction. Economists measure our “standard of living,” but what we’re really after is a higher “quality of life”—and while there is overlap, those two are not the same thing! The point of investing, we’d like to suggest, isn’t just about having more, but about being happy in a full, classical sense.
Let’s look back—back as far as 2500 years—for help in answering these questions. Aristotle, writing in the Nicomachean Ethics, described the point of a well-lived life, the goal we should be aiming for, as “blessedness.” For Aristotle, blessedness meant enjoying family and friends, with a deep feeling of well-being and contentment. In our day, this ideal might suggest a mature experience of knowing one’s mission, succeeding at pursuing that mission, having a solid primary relationship and close friends and family, having sufficient financial resources to live well according to your own standards, to be making a contribution and leaving a legacy one can be proud of, and staying in right relationship to the natural world that sustains life. It’s not about more—it’s about better!
We don’t think of investing as simply a professional, numbers-crunching discipline; for us it’s something much more fundamental. We believe investing should support financial goals (buy a house, start a business) and it should support the bigger and deeper and more profound purpose of a life: Aristotle’s blessedness. Investing can help each of us live a better life, and it can help improve communities and build a better world for all.
To do this, we must first break out of the confines that limit our ideas about wealth. Financial choices are just one part of a continual process of giving and receiving, balancing risk and reward, and exchanging time, energy, and money with those around you. So let’s make room for values and communities, for society and the Earth. And let’s expand our vision to include the interior realms of emotional and spiritual well-being as well, which are enduring elements of healthy human development. By doing so, we are bound to get more relevant, and more life-nourishing results.