Impact investing is going mainstream. But while you may rest easier knowing that your nest egg is making a positive contribution to society (as well as your financial position), what about the financial intermediaries in your life?
Every year, B Lab publishes a list of “Best for the World” B Corps—those that rank in the top 10% of its B Impact Assessment, a voluntary, comprehensive survey that measures a company’s impact on its workers, community, customers, and the environment. And each year, more financial companies are making the list, including banks, funds, lenders and insurance providers, alongside iconic brands such as King Arthur Flour, Patagonia, Seventh Generation and others.
We decided to take a look at some of the financial advisors gracing this year’s newly released list.
These financial advisors stand out for their willingness to work beyond the norms of conventional finance, pointing clients to investments that generate competitive triple bottom line returns, from clean energy to companies with diverse management to place-based investments. But they also pay attention to how they treat employees, the planet and the communities that they operate within.
The following are some highlights of B Lab’s top-ranking financial planners and wealth managers. Most are fee-based, meaning they are not beholden to investment firms peddling products, and will work with clients beyond their home office locations.
Earth Equity Advisors, Asheville, NC
Founded in 2004 by Peter Krull, Earth Equity’s certified financial planners offer individuals, trusts, and nonprofit endowments the opportunity to divest from fossil fuel and other problematic public companies and invest in green building, clean energy, and locally-rooted organizations. Their signature Green Sage Sustainability Portfolio allows clients to “use their money to be changemakers” by shifting their investments into more transparent, environmentally conscious, and diverse companies. Earth Equity also employs shareholder advocacy campaigns to combat exorbitant executive pay, unconscionable political lobbying, and employment equality. Earth Equity also works with clients to direct a portion of their capital into smaller, community-based investments, including healthcare, housing, education and childcare ventures. As their web site says: “Investing in the community is investing in the future.”
Green Retirement, Alameda, CA
For individuals seeking to retire comfortably while upholding their personal values, Green Retirement helps them do so, from Solo K’s for the self-employed to IRAs and 401(k)s. Alongside the firm’s three pillars of Environmental Sustainability, Social Responsibility, and Community Commitment, Green Retirement’s mantra is to ensure the client’s “right to retire with dignity.” For the Green Retirement team, that means helping clients maintain financial independence while building a 401k or IRA that omits fossil fuel, tobacco, and firearm companies. The firm became one of the first California Benefit Corporations in 2012.
Natural Investments LLC, Various locations
Founded in 1985, Natural Investments is one of the pioneering financial advisory firms in the impact investing space. Not surprisingly, it was a founding B Corp back in 2007, joining the cohort of companies breaking ground on redefining business as a force for good. With over $400 million in assets under management, Natural Investments offers investors of all levels the opportunity to support projects in clean energy, organic agriculture, green building, watershed restoration, and more.
The firm’s philosophy can be summed up in its latest book, The Resilient Investor: A Plan for Your Life, Not Just Your Money (Berrett-Koehler 2015), which espouses a holistic view of investing. (See our coverage of it here).
Natural Investments’ virtual team, scattered from New York to Hawaii, combines a global and local scope of “regenerative” investing to support underinvested communities and entrepreneurs that are building enterprises benefitting people and the planet. Local ownership is a priority as well, with investments targeting worker-owned cooperatives, small business incubators and urban land trusts. In 2017, Natural Investments’ managers allocated $70 million to community investments supporting CDFIs, community loan funds, and microfinance institutions. They encourage clients to set aside 2-3% of their portfolio for these low-yield, high-impact investments, often touting them as the ones clients find most rewarding.
Talgra, Armonk NY
Talgra founder Brian Kaminer has a keen interest in sustainability and collective well-being, as evidenced by his participation in Slow Money NYC, FoodShed Investors NY, Gross Happiness USA and the Invest With Values site. Talgra offers consulting for investors seeking to align their investments with their values and localize their wealth. While mainly functioning as a consulting company, Talgra also selectively makes direct investments in enterprises they see as highly impactful. Its first investment, The Carrot Project, facilitates funding for small farmers working to promote a re-localized and more sustainable food system. Talgra’s consulting services for individuals and foundations focuses on demystifying impact investing, implementing sustainable business practices, and connecting mission-aligned funders with companies. Clean energy and sustainable food projects are integral to Talgra’s mission as a company deeply rooted in the Hudson Valley region of New York.
Trillium Asset Management, Boston, MA
Founded in 1982 by Joan Bavaria, Trillium bills itself as “the oldest investment advisor exclusively focused on sustainable and responsible investing.” It takes a long-term view of investing and has guided its high net worth clients and families to devote all of their assets to socially and environmentally-responsible investments. Today, the firm has over $2.5 billion in assets under management.
As an employee-owned company, Trillium directs over 15% of net profits to a profit sharing program. The firm practices community impact investing as well, first investing in a community loan fund back in 1984, and today offering clients customized approaches to specific geographies and areas of interest they would like to target. This “high social impact asset class” invests in job creation, sustainable agriculture, affordable housing, quality childcare, and more. The Trillium team also leverages shareholder activism and proxy voting as powerful tools for positive change in corporate America, encouraging companies to adopt governance structures that are more inclusive and business policies that are responsive to issues of social and environmental justice.
Veris Wealth Partners, New York
At Veris, five targeted themes—Climate Change, Gender Lens Investing, Community Wealth Building, Sustainable Agriculture, and Sustainability and Mindfulness—guide the team of wealth managers for accredited investors. Two-thirds of Veris’ advisors are women, and the firm supports and empowers women investors to align their investments with their values. The firm has also emerged as a champion of gender lens investing, with about one-tenth of its $1 billion in sustainable funds are invested with a gender-lens mandate, according to CEO Patricia Farrar-Rivas.
In addition, amid increasing levels of income and wealth inequality in the U.S., Veris invests in enterprises promoting community wealth and revitalization. One investee, Self-Help Credit Union, provides lending and other financial services for unbanked and underbanked populations, including unique loan products for immigrants seeking citizenship. In its 2016 impact report, Veris cited private and community investments that supported the creation of 23,427 jobs and 45,139 affordable housing units. In an effort to offset some of their carbon footprint, Veris supports a clean water project in Ethiopia that promotes healthier, more sustainable livelihoods.
Randy Mueller is an undergraduate student at Fordham University who is interested in localism, worker ownership, and impact investing.