Professionalizing Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)

December, 2005

In this issue:
1. Ponderable of the Month
2. Miscellaneous Newsbits
3. December Editorial: “Professionalizing Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)”
4. Preview: Next Month’s Editorial
5. Quote of the Month: William Sloan Coffin
6. Hot Link of the Month

PONDERABLE OF THE MONTH (pull-quotes from John’s writings):

“We all may want pretty much the same thing in our world but some have very strong opinions as to why it isn’t possible.”


New Name for Newsletter

This is the first issue of the newsletter with the new name, FutureShapers Monthly. Thanks to all of you who expressed your opinions about the name change. All past issues of my newsletter, in all their incarnations, are available on the Archives page.

Join Me for a Teleconversation on January 10

If you are a member of the Heartland Member Circle, a global network of visionaries sponsored by the hosts of Thought Leaders Gatherings, you can join in a teleconversation with me and other members and guests on the evening of January 10th for free. Non-members pay $15. For more information go to the link above. These conversations take place each month with a different VisionHolder. Past VisionHolders have included Meg Wheatley, Eric Utne and Pete Russell.

Futurists Article Published

My article Finding Spiritual Courage: Risking the Unfamiliar to Have the Future We Want was published in the November 2005 issue of The Club of Amsterdam Journal; I will be a keynote speaker at the Club’s Summit for the Future of Risk in May of 2006.


In October 2006, I’ll be delivering a keynote presentation at an event entirely focused on Socially Responsible Investing, aka “SRI,” a relatively new field where “cause investors” have the option of voting for a sustainable world with their investment dollars. This conference will take place in Zurich, Switzerland, a major hub for the international finance community.

In learning about this event and the people behind it, it occurred to me that this was a milestone in the global movement to bring consciousness to the world of business, which is why I’m writing about it now.

Mainstream stock brokers, investment advisors, financial planners and bankers have been gradually responding to socially-conscious investors seeking to place their monies in companies that are socially responsible. Thanks in large part to the persistent insistence of some investors and a few pioneers in the professional ranks, SRI has started to get more traction in recent years. In short, SRI is growing up.
Here in the US, the Calvert Fund was founded in 1976 in order to invest in companies which were socially responsible. Terry Mollner sits on the Board of Trustees for several of Calvert’s funds, including its Social Index Series, and also aided in the 2000 Unilever acquisition of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade where he now sits on their board. In 1982, Joan Bavaria founded Trillium Asset Management and co-founded Social Investing Forum, a coalition of 340 labor, environmental, religious and other groups to lead the fight against the original SEC proposal to limits the rights of shareholders to hold corporations accountable for their actions.

Amy Domini tracks SRI performance and formed her own index which has since become known worldwide. In 1990, Domini and her colleagues introduced the Domini 400 Social Index, consisting primarily of large-cap U.S. corporations selected according to a wide range of social and environmental criteria. The Domini Index has demonstrated that competitive returns can be achieved while incorporating social and environmental standards. Another major player in the U.S. is Marjorie Kelly, publisher of Business Ethics magazine, which has evolved over the past twenty years into a periodical focused on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

In Asia, Tessa Tennant serves as Executive Chair for the Association for Sustainable & Responsible Investment in Asia where she co-founded the world’s first SRI fund for the Asia Pacific region in 1998. A decade earlier, she co-founded the UK’s first sustainable investment trust. Tennant is a Board member of The Calvert World Values Fund.

For most of the industrialized nations, men and women who recommend and sell investment products to private investors or fund managers are only required to possess conventional securities licenses. For instance, here in the U.S., through the auspices of the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) or the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD).

There has been no visible movement to distinguish a mainstream securities advisor from someone specifically well-informed and sophisticated in SRI. Brokers and other securities professionals advising investors seeking SRI products need to be able to discern between true SRI products and stocks or mutual funds which have “green washed” themselves through public relations efforts. Socially responsible business practices can be exaggerated or hyped so that even experienced mainstream securities professionals might believe the spin created by the companies.

That is until now.

In Australia, the Ethical Investment Association recently launched the world’s first SRI certification program, which includes a trademarked symbol which is made available to fund managers, financial advisers and other securities professionals.

In the UK, financial services veteran Brian Harrison Spence has developed an examination that will certify which professional securities advisors are SRI savvy when it comes to investing. Over the last few years, he’s developed an SRI examination syllabus for financial advisers who wish to specialise in the field. Bournemouth and Birkbeck universities moderate the exams and application is currently being made to the London-based Chartered Insurance Institute for accreditation. This exam could become a standard for other countries who would like to follow the UK’s lead. Most countries have no distinct SRI licensing requirements.

As part of his overall strategy to professionalize SRI, Spence is convening “economie 06” – the two-day Zurich event where I’ll be speaking. It will feature speakers, exhibits and workshops focused on educating both the investing public and the professionals interested in Socially Responsible Investing. Investors and advisors who are already active in SRI will be attending as well as those who are interested in knowing more about this growing, values-driven global phenomenon.

“Economie 06” will be an international conference with attendees, exhibitors and speakers coming from all over the world to Zurich, this scenic capitol for global finance.

Is this a “coming of age” for SRI? Is SRI ready for prime time? Well, from where I sit, it already has arrived! It has evolved from the alternative Green Business movement started by a bunch of idealistic hippies decades ago to being part of mainstream values for investing today. SRI is now learning how to behave like the grown-up it has become. Sophisticated investors and fund managers, along with a few trailblazers like Domini, Kelly, Mollner, Tennant, Bavaria, Spence and others, have ushered SRI into this maturity.

I envision the day when there will be no need for SRI because being socially responsible will simply be the way things are. It will be the norm, not the exception. Following the lead of the CSR movement and its early heroes – Anita Roddick, Ben Cohen and Paul Hawken – SRI will become more commonplace. This sea change could happen relatively soon.

I encourage you all to join me in Zurich next October 9 & 10 for “economie 06” for this international SRI event. If you cannot attend, at least inform your friends and colleagues about it, especially those who reside in Europe. There will be workshops, exhibits and keynotes – everything for SRI practitioners and investors, both the experienced and the aspiring. Others keynote speakers include social justice activist Heather Mills (Mrs. Paul) McCartney and SRI icon Domini. As we go to press with this article, invitations are outstanding to world tennis “phenom” Roger Federer and Adolf Ogi, former president of Switzerland. I’m sure the list of confirmed speakers will be even more impressive before the word gets out about this event. Still over ten months away, “economie 06” promises to be a milestone international SRI event.

If you make it to Zurich next October, be sure to look me up and say “hello.”


“Debt: Opiate for the Consumer Society” (an excerpt from John’s book-in-progress, The New Human: Beyond the Naked Ape)

“The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.” – William Sloan Coffin, former chaplain, Yale University

Heartland Circle: member-based U.S. network that offers conversation, support and leadership development opportunities; offers access to the Heartland Vision Holders, Thought Leader Gatherings and the Art of Convening TeleTraining Series; operated by Craig and Patricia Neal.

John delivers keynotes talks to corporations, associations and conferences. A list of his topics can be viewed at Keynotes That Make You Think! For references check: What people have said about John as a speaker.

John is a San Francisco writer and businessman-futurist. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing. More about John can be found at About.

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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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