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THE POWER OF SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE INVESTING

THE POWER OF SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE INVESTING

THE POWER OF SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE INVESTING

Here is some great news for our aging population: It is estimated that over the next few years, Baby Boomers (people born from 1946 to 1964) will have 70 percent of the disposable income in this country. Since that is the case, investing is projected to be every bit as critical to that crowd as spending. Various outlets have predictions about what they will invest in, but it is increasingly common for this population group to participate in socially responsible investing.

Socially responsible investing (SRI) is a strategy that involves placing your money in causes, companies and movements that support your basic values. For example, if you are concerned about climate change, you might elect to invest in companies that aggressively work to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Those who are concerned with a strong social or political conscience often follow investment trends that support their causes.

A number of seniors focus on institutional investing in companies that exercise corporate accountability, companies that hold themselves accountable in non-financially-related areas, such as the environment, medical research (such as stem-cell research), and social issues that affect large population segments. For the most part, government does not regulate this type of corporate behavior, so it is up to individual businesses to hold themselves accountable for issues of well-being.

The Reputation Institute (RI) is a data and analytics firm that ranks companies in the areas of their treatment of workers and broader world impact as well as how it resonates with consumers. This year, the report ranks LEGO, as number one in corporate responsibility, followed by big names like Google, Disney, Microsoft, and a number of international firms. Energy companies are gaining in the rankings, including Exxon, Chevron and Shell.

RI keeps a close watch on companies that have been publicly outed for certain behaviors that negatively affect consumers. For example, Starbucks went through a period of high profile incidents related to racial profiling. Uber was in the news for problems with its workplace culture, and incidents of drivers mistreating passengers. These types of highly-publicized events can directly affect a company’s standing in issues of public perception.

The RI rankings measure the reputation of 100 companies in 15 countries, among them the U.S., Australia, Germany, Russia, Brazil, Japan and China.

If there are any possible pitfalls of socially responsible investing, high on the list may be sacrificing strong financial performance for personal ethics. Smart investors understand that investing in high performing stocks is equally important to SRI, although both can be achieved. Also, just because a company claims to be socially responsible does not necessarily make it true. Investors must do their own research into a company’s social behavior before making an investment decision. Perhaps most important are your own social priorities. A company may define SRI differently than you do, so if SRI is important to you, it is critical to find companies with values that align with yours.

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