Last fall, I zipped up to the 39th floor of a big bank building in downtown Toronto. I was there with our bookkeeper to meet with Broadview’s investment adviser. Joining us by phone was the chair of our finance committee.
Over several decades, this adviser grew the generous gifts from our Friends Fund donors into a healthy investment to ensure the longevity of our magazine. Like good mother birds, we tended to our nest egg carefully and wanted to see it thrive.
As our adviser walked us through the ups and downs of our portfolio, I kept sneaking glances out the windows to take in sparkling Lake Ontario and the surrounding skyscrapers. It was simply too breathtaking to ignore. But my view from on high shifted when our finance committee chair asked two pivotal questions: “What about ethical screens? Are our investments meeting the standards of socially responsible investing?”
The adviser scoffed a bit. “Look, you can either make money, or you can be ethical. That’s up to you.” Then he softened slightly, adding: “There’s nothing in your portfolio that would be unethical.”
It’s true that we weren’t invested in “sin stocks” — things like tobacco or gambling. But socially responsible investing goes beyond that. It’s also about supporting companies that meet rigorous environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.
The adviser’s words left us uneasy. For a publication that puts the words “ethical living” on its cover, we knew we had to do better. We began looking for other options.
The Canadian appetite for ethical investing is growing, particularly among millennials. At the end of 2015, investment managers had $1.5 trillion in assets using responsible investment strategies; two years later, that figure jumped to $2.1 trillion. While ethical investing is still relatively new, interested individuals need to be equipped with the right questions, which writer Jacky Habib explores in this month’s feature package about ethical investing.
At Broadview, our search ultimately led us to Fiera Capital. It’s the same investment company The United Church of Canada uses for its treasury and foundation funds. It’s also a signatory of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, a network of international investors putting ESG principles into practice.
Sure, I’ll miss the breathtaking view of that bank building. But the vision of using our savings to help build a more equitable and sustainable world is much, much better.
This editorial first appeared in the October 2019 issue of Broadview with the title “Stock options.” For more of Broadview’s award-winning content, subscribe to the magazine today.
Eleanor Scarlett says:
Excellent move, it's about time we all look into our own investments strategies well.
Therese DesCamp says:
Thank you for making this switch to ethical investing. If we don't put our money where our mouth is, our speech is useless. Even worse: it's deceptive.
K. Kepler says:
I really appreciate your article. For years, "ethics" in investing did not adequately get my attention. As I got older, and the ethical-investment sphere matured somewhat, I've re-structured my retirement portfolio to eliminate all tobacco, alcohol, gambling, firearms, nuclear power, GMO foods, and fossil fuels. My return has hardly been affected, but my conscience has been helped considerably. An American investment director, Amy Domini, has been at the forefront of this trend and has lots of material to read. I'm glad the United Church of Canada is on board. And I wonder to what degree we have brought this upon ourselves, given that Jesus told us not to lay up treasure on earth.
Donna MacDougall says:
Yes, Jesus taught us not to lay up treasures on earth. He said "Seek ye first, the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you" In John 3: "Jesus said Ye must be born again. Truly, truly I say unto you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Jesus did not say that ethical living could save us. I know a lot of people who live ethical lives who do not profess to being born again. I used to be one of them. In Ephesians 2: 8-10, we are taught that "For by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, NOT a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we (referring to the born again) are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Our good works will never save us; however, they glorify God while laying up treasures in heaven. What a blessed hope we, the redeemed have. When Jesus saved me 41 years ago, He could have taken me to heaven at that moment. However, He left me here to show His love to the lost by sharing the Gospel with them. We are to share this good news truthfully and with love. Yes, some will reject this and laugh at us; but, Jesus already told us that the world would hate us just as it hated Him. Whether I am jeered at or not, God is glorified. The chief end of man is to glorify God. Whoever reads this post, please know that it is written with love. If you were the only person in the world, Jesus would have died just for your sins. I am a greatly blessed, highly favored, imperfect, but forgiven child of God. This is my prayer for you. sincerely, with love Donna MacDougall
Diane Trollope says:
Thank you for this and then ensuing article later in this issue.
I was just asking my financial advisor the same question. I had told him 'ethical only' and he has that okay, but I just asked about technical companies pushing 5G. Different I think, and will see he gets this article. It might be good for people to see how it is changing. He is ethical. So it is there in him already.
And thanks for the numbers that show this trend is picking up. I am really happy to see this trend is picking up speed.
John Perigoe says:
Suzanne Edgar says:
Thank you, Broadview, for deciding to help build a more equitable society with your savings; I am happy to be a subscriber!