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History of Sustainable Investing

The origins of what has become known as socially responsible investing date back hundreds of years. In biblical times, Jewish law laid down many directives about how to invest ethically. In the mid 1700s, the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, considered the use of money as the second most important subject of New Testament teachings.

For generations, religious investors whose traditions embrace peace and nonviolence have avoided investing in enterprises that profit from the enslavement or killing of fellow human beings. It is likely that Quaker and Methodist immigrants brought the concept of socially responsible investing to the new world. Quakers have never condoned investing in slavery or war and Methodists have managed money in the U.S. using what are now referred to as "social screens" for over two hundred years!

The modern roots of this phenomenon can be traced to the impassioned political climate of the 1960s. During that tumultuous decade, a series of themes served to escalate sensitivities to issues of social responsibility and accountability. Concerns regarding the Vietnam War, civil rights, and equality for women broadened during the 1970s to include labor-management issues and anti-nuclear convictions.

The ranks of socially concerned investors grew dramatically throughout the 1980s as millions of people, churches, universities, cities, and states focused investment strategies on pressuring the white minority government of South Africa to dismantle its racist system of apartheid. Then, with the Bhopal, Chernobyl, and Exxon Valdez incidents and vast amounts of new information about ozone depletion and climate change coming into public view, the environment moved to the forefront of the minds of socially concerned investors.

The practice of SRI has come a long way since then. Issues of climate change, corporate governance, human rights and healthy working conditions in factories around the world producing goods for U.S. consumption have become rallying points for investors with dual objectives for their investment capital. (Read the full text at: SRI in the US.)

Today, more than 1 out of every 5 U.S. dollars is invested in SRI, and that doesn't include the wave of institutional monies that are adopting the UN Principals for Responsible Investing.

To learn more about SRI, or if you have specific questions you can contact us directly or attend one of our upcoming presentations.

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