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Investments to make your money grow green

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Investments to make your money grow green

All of us want at least two things from our investments: a good financial return and a degree of security. But an increasing number of us are also after investments that are ethical. However, ethical investing is in the eye of the beholder. One investor may refuse to invest in a defense contractor believing it harms people, while another wants it in his portfolio believing it protects people. You need to determine your own ethical standards.
Socially responsible mutual funds are the easiest way to begin ethical investing and are better suited to smaller investors than individual stocks and bonds. These funds rely on financial advisors to pick investments that have both a strong financial outlook and operate in a socially acceptable manner. Keep in mind, however, that you need to understand the criteria used to measure a stock or fund’s social responsibility. One company that provides research to many investment firms recommends a petroleum company. Some believe choosing the most responsible – environmentally and socially – company in all sectors as fitting "ethical" criteria. Others, however, can’t imagine a petroleum company making it into any recommendation for ethical funds. Again, the ethics are in the eye of the beholder/investor. So make sure your investment professional understands your value system.
Even if you prefer to do-it-yourself, your first step should be deciding what ethical investing means to you. Determine what type of risk you can manage and what companies /products you want to avoid. Financial experts also recommend that no matter how much you love a certain company or industry, you must have diversity in order to best achieve your first two goals: good financial return and a degree of security. First you have to come up with your asset allocation mix, that is how much you will have in equities (higher risk) and how much in fixed income (generally lower risk). Within the equity side, determine how much you want invested in Canada and how much in international investments. Do the same with fixed income. Spread investments over large-cap and small-cap. A simple formula, according to one financial advisor, is don’t put more than approximately 5 per cent of assets in any one stock. Spread your investments over various companies and across various industries that meet your criteria.
Beware of being "green-washed": With more people seeking socially responsible investments, there is an increasing number of products that aim to sound ethical. Don’t get caught up in the hype – check out these investment products to ensure they meet your ethical standards. Thanks to some reputable Web sites, researching socially responsible investments is easier than ever (see sidebar).
Financial experts insist that clients don’t need to compromise their ethical standards to invest profitably though, as with any investments, there are no guarantees. However, the emotional return you get from investing in companies that share your ethical standards is a sure thing.

Seeking Socially Responsible Investments
You may want to enlist the help of a financial advisor. Ask friends for recommendations or search online for ethical investors. However, if you choose to do-it-yourself, these sites can help with your research:
Green Ontario:
Social Investment Organization:

Leslie Garrett is an award-winning journalist, mother of three young children and author of The Virtuous Consumer: Your Essential Shopping Guide for a Better, Kinder, Healthier World (and one our kids will thank us for!). Visit her web site at