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.