Socially Responsible Investing, Ethical Investing, Natural Investing

How you can make money and still make a difference

| January/February 2000

Whichever label you prefer, you can't ignore the success of values-based financial planning. According to the Social Investment Forum, one in every eight dollars — approximately $2 trillion — is invested in a socially responsible portfolio. That's an eighty-percent increase from 1997. What's more, a new Morningstar, Inc. analysis shows that socially responsible mutual funds are twice as likely as all mutual funds to earn the respected research and analysis firm's top five-star rating.

A New Voice for Your Money

Turn on any financial talk show and you will be deluged with advice about how to make more money. You'll learn which kind of IRA is best for you, and hear arguments rage about the pros and cons of no-load mutual funds. This is useful information, but it doesn't go far enough. Given the central, powerful role of money and business—both in our society and our personal lives—it is astonishing that so little attention is given to the social, ethical and spiritual dimensions of money. Even the most caring commentators seem oblivious to the enormous impact our financial decisions have on communities, the earth, and our own peace of mind.

So how can people include their spiritual, social, environmental and ethical values when making important financial decisions? Why do so many conscientious, good-hearted people make investments that conflict with their own deeply held beliefs? There are, of course, no easy answers. We have found that the status quo—where money and values are separated by an impenetrable wall—is rooted in an outdated mechanical worldview that sees everything as parts of a giant machine. When we shift toward a natural worldview of interrelated living systems, a new sort of investing emerges. We call this Natural Investing.

Natural Investors are shunning conventional wisdom

that says we must abandon ethics when making financial decisions. People of all income levels, from across the entire political spectrum, are using the tools of Natural Investing to find profitable investments. And don't think Wall Street hasn't noticed this powerful force; nearly every mainstream investment option now has a values-based equivalent. You don't need a lot of money—several screened mutual funds and community banking options welcome small investors who can start with as little as $50. All that's really needed is the willingness to identify and consider your personal values when making decisions about your money.

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