Potlucks and Portfolios Can Say A Lot About a Person
I try not to judge, especially not at a church potluck, but having recently gazed at my fellow Presbyterians’ plates, I’ll admit it was quite telling. I could tell the vegetarians from the meat-lovers, and the chocoholics from the cobbler connoisseurs. I even took note of the “health conscious” eaters, carrying well balanced plates, with a focus on the “good” stuff, but still a smattering of some less healthy sweet treats. Whatever the fare, each plate carried something important and telling.
If someone were to gaze over your portfolio, instead of your plate, what might be learned? This isn’t about the size of the portfolio. It’s a simple exercise to see how your money reflects your missions. Socially responsible investing (SRI) had it’s foundation in exclusions: avoiding companies which gain profits from alcohol, gambling, oil, pornography or testing of products on animals. The SRI industry grew slowly as investors incorrectly rationalized that SRI investing meant giving up returns for being responsible. But that isn’t the case, at all. Recently the face (and initials) of responsible investing has changed, introducing concepts such as Impact Investing and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance). While managing money to avoid bad behavior is still one cornerstone, the industry has expanded to review how potential investments include positive activities such as renewable energy sources, clean water issues, employee pay and training, corporate leadership and board diversify. Ethical investing has come a long way in recent years. According to the 2018 Report on Sustainable, Responsible, and Impact Investing Trends, issued by US SIF, the SRI/ESG assets have increased over 38% in the prior two year period, and account for nearly 25% of total US assets under management. Like every investment, there are risks and benefits, each of which must be weighed by the individual investor.
As an investment advisor, I recognize that clients seek a return on their money. But is that the sole goal to be accomplished by your portfolio? What if your portfolio provided satisfactory returns while being at least partially, invested in company’s whose global profile made you proud? Wouldn’t it be worth a bit of effort to build that portfolio? That’s a question for which everyone needs an answer. If you learn nothing else from my words, today, don’t sit next to me at the potluck — I WILL pay attention, and I think you should, too.