Global Climate Action Summit highlights growth in purpose investing

Julie Davitz
Posted by Julie Davitz
Strategic Philanthropy

It was a pleasure and great opportunity to be a part of the recent Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

Older professional man conferring with a colleague or advisor (woman) while looking at a plan on a laptop.As part of the summit, Bank of the West partnered with the NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center for our “Intersection of Entrepreneurship and Climate Innovation” event. The center was an ideal venue to bring together emerging and experienced entrepreneurs, institutional investors, private equity, and other stakeholders to discuss the impact of environmental dynamics on business innovation, company formation, and operational transparency.

One of the focus topics was socially responsible investing (SRI), which Bank of the West Wealth Management offers through our Purpose Investing Services.

Putting the ‘purpose’ in modern portfolio theory

I firmly believe that SRI now plays a similar role in modern portfolio theory to the one emerging market investment began playing more than a decade ago before it was widely recognized and adopted.

Unlike emerging markets, which can more readily be understood, the term “socially responsible” can be the first hang up for investors. In fact, when speaking about SRI, I often tell people to cover their left eye and ignore the words “socially responsible.” Quite simply, you are investing, but you’re adding another layer of due diligence that, along with profits, seeks to produce and measure positive social and environmental outcomes.

Far from being a flash-in-the pan or faddish investment trend, SRI is an established investment strategy that is seeing continued global growth and investor interest.

Globally, close to 2,000 organizations have signed commitments to the six Principles for Responsible Investment set forth by the United Nations that are focused on better aligning investors with broader societal objectives including the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As of 2018, these institutional investors collectively represent nearly $90 billion Assets Under Management (AUM).

These signatories are being driven not just by the desire to “do good” and achieve positive social outcomes, but also to “do well” and realize strong financial returns. Recent studies from Harvard Business School and The University of Oxford – Said Business School among others, have shown that companies with a commitment to meeting sustainability criteria see long term stock performance that outmatches their counterparts who lack a sustainability commitment. Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future performance.

A vision for purpose: The road to 2020

However, even with data showing that purpose investing can deliver both a strong financial return and a social one, many investors feel overwhelmed by SRI and not sure how to get involved. Although there are many widely agreed upon and adopted standards, the terminology of sustainability, environmental and social governance (ESG) and philanthropy itself can be daunting. The growth and excitement around SRI has been matched by a proliferation of organizations focused on setting guidelines, establishing criteria and measuring a variety of outcomes.

It has never been easier to take your first steps as a purpose investor. My role as head of strategic philanthropy and purpose investment, enables me to sit down with clients and see first-hand the power of thinking through the impact they want to make, defining their personal goals and developing an individualized plan.

One of the most common Purpose Investing steps our advisors help clients with is an ESG portfolio screening. You may currently be comfortable with a traditional charity model and find yourself sitting down at your kitchen table at the end of the year to write a check, or want to take a more strategic approach involving a discussion of the best investment vehicles to help you make an impact on a specific issue such as hunger, homelessness, or clean water.

Regardless, our approach to purpose investing takes into account a spectrum of activity.

To begin the conversation around where you fit on that spectrum, and how our approach may help you bring purpose to your portfolio, talk to your Primary Advisor.

To learn more about the intersection of investing, purpose, culture and strategic philanthropy, watch my interview with the NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center.

All investing involves risk, including the loss of principal. When redeemed, an investment may be worth more or less than the original amount invested.

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  • Anonymous says:

    Great piece Julie! We’re curious to see what the future holds for societal objectives in sustainability and the greater impact of purpose investing. Although many are moving in that direction, where and why is there a divide among the “legacy” investors who don’t make any action to spark a difference?

    Reply | 1 year ago

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