The Marion Institute has helped to sponsor some groundbreaking work in the world of Socially Responsible Investing [SRI]. Through the collaboration of Baldwin Brothers Inc.[BBI], Natural Capital Institute [a socially responsible investing research organization founded by Paul Hawken], Investors’ Circle [IC], and The Rudolf Steiner Foundation[RSF] a new set of criteria for identifying and screening corporations that truly promote social and ecological change has been developed. Natural Capital Institute has performed in depth research on the existing SRI universe in over 600 mutual funds from around the world.
Although the SRI mutual fund database developed by this collaborative project can be useful for investors, NGOs, researchers and fund managers, the group’s primary concern was to address the following questions:
- Are the terms “socially responsible investing” or “social investing” so broad as to have little meaning? In other words, are the screening criteria and language employed by the SRI community adequate to express the scope and complexity of current business models as well as the problems facing humanity?
- Do SRI mutual funds play an important role in changing corporate practices?
Or do they end up accomplishing the opposite purpose, serving as marketing tools used to appease investor sentiments and greenwash corporations?
- Should return on SRI funds be benchmarked against mainstream stock indices that are comprised of corporations that do not meet the same standards on social and environmental issues? Or should they be compared to companies with the highest standards of responsibility and reporting?
- For that matter, is there a socially responsible rate of return and if so how would it be determined?
Our research is ongoing as we zero in on the answers to these questions. Paul Hawken’s report addresses many of these issues but also raises many more.
Natural Capital Institute was founded by environmentalist and businessman Paul Hawken. He is author of six books including The Ecology of Commerce, The Next Economy, Growing a Business, and Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. He founded and co-founded several companies including Smith & Hawken, Metacode, Groxis and several natural food companies that relied solely on sustainable agricultural methods.
“Marion Institute provides support and insight to emerging initiatives that make a profound difference in the world. Their work does not show up at the head of the parade, but is often the reason there is a parade at all. The Institute shows up early and presciently to bring forth the most innovative people and projects in the world.”
– Paul Hawken
Baldwin Brothers, Inc. is an investment management firm founded in 1974 offering investment advice and expertise to wealthy individuals, family groups, institutions and charitable organizations. The firm is privately owned by its managing partners with assets under management of approximately $750 million. Baldwin Brothers, Inc. is dedicated to providing clients with the highest level of individual attention in order to help clients align their investments with their values.
The Marion Institute was founded in 1993 to explore how nature and spirit can empower the lives of individuals and communities. The Institute sponsors conferences, dialogs, and mailings in overlapping fields of interest: health and healing; death and dying; ecology, environment, and sustainable living; philanthropy; frontiers in science; indigenous traditions; tools for personal growth; business in transition; and the arts and social awareness.
Investors’ Circle brings together – through venture fairs, education workshops, information services and other specialized programs – angel investors, venture capitalists, philanthropists, social entrepreneurs and social investors who seek to promote the transition to a sustainable economy. The Investors’ Circle network is the nation’s oldest angel network, and has facilitated the flow of over $85 million into over 140 early stage companies and social mission venture funds since 1992.
The Rudolf Steiner Foundation has developed one of the first community investment funds [since 1984 in the U.S.] and made it possible for projects that were considered “un-bankable” to receive financing. Since 1984, RSF has operated as a values-based service organization, supporting a broad spectrum of projects including children and education, arts and culture, the environment, sustainable agriculture, disadvantaged communities, health and healing and spiritual and religious renewal. RSF lending activities create direct linkages between investors’ money, values and intentions.
Natural Capital Institute
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Sausalito, California 94965