Time to Choose Up Sides
Early in my career, I worked for an Investment Strategist who identified a "theme" that drove our firm's investment direction. It was 1993, and this theme focused on the power of unleashing the human capital in the world's developing countries.
This idea ultimately motivated me to launch the firm's first international fund, focused on emerging markets. This was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and to this day it shapes my world view: That people are people, from country to country. And all are seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Period.
This same Chief Investment Officer also wrote about "choosing up sides", as a society. We were collectively being asked: Will we choose to embrace this new world, and the freedom it promises? Or, will we resist this trend, digging in our heels to preserve the status quo?
I think we know how this one turned out. Emerging markets, from China to Brazil, are now some of the world's largest economies.
As investors, we are at another crossroads. We again get to choose up sides. You see, the (traditional) energy sector was among the S&P500's best performing sectors last year. The old guard moved back to the front... But the world's problems haven't lessened.
So, investors need to ponder some important questions:
Do we decide that "business as usual" is the profitable path, and ignore/abandon our values?
Or, do we affirm a commitment to use our money as a force for good?
Do we disregard the evidence that climate change will irreparably damage our planet?
Or, do we consciously choose to vote with our money, and against those destructive forces, by spending and investing in a manner that helps to turn the tide the other way?
As a Certified B Corporation, Boardwalk Capital Management has chosen to vote with its dollars. We have chosen to give a portion of company profits to social and environmental causes. We have chosen to accept any and all clients who wish to invest responsibly, regardless of their account size. And we have elected to spend a significant portion of our time with non-profit organizations, speaking at conferences and in classrooms across our region, spreading the word of responsible commerce.
Together, our clients are making a difference in the way that they invest. But, I look around and think: It's Just. Not. Enough. It feels like the time for half measures has long passed.
The World demands it. Our kids' future demands it.
It's time to "double down" on making an impact.
A Pledge to You
So, I have two pledges to you today:
1. I commit to divesting my own portfolio of fossil fuel investments.
Yes, it is still very important each of us to invest with our own unique values. But no longer do I believe it is enough for me to simply invest in the "best of class" sustainability leaders across all sectors. "Less bad" does not make a good. We have to take other steps, too...
2. I will try to set an example by publicly sharing my personal investment actions with all who care to listen. These investments will be ones that practically anyone can make, regardless of their portfolio size.
(Here's the disclaimer: When taken in isolation, none of these investments will constitute a total portfolio. But each could be a decent "building block" for an investor with the appropriate objectives and tolerance for risk. You can click here to determine your own risk tolerance.)
Much has changed over the past five years that brings me to this conclusion.
It's clear that government isn't going to lead the way on maintaining a livable planet, or an equitable society. Someone must lead. And corporations are doing it.
Meanwhile, the investment industry has evolved. The number of fossil free and socially-responsible investment choices has reached a critical mass that makes this effort possible.
Trillions of dollars in brokerage accounts, pension plans, 401k's and IRAs can be liberated to move the needle. In other words, the time is right...
If you are considering making a similar move, please let us know. We'd love to help.
Two roads are again diverging in a wood, and I am choosing to take the one less traveled by. Hopefully, our collective actions will make all the difference.
(With apologies to Robert Frost)