Socially responsible investment funds hold their own
The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Mar. 17 2013, 7:00 PM EDT
Last updated Friday, Mar. 15 2013, 8:51 PM EDT
What are we looking for?
Top performing funds over the past year that also have a good long-term track record.
We looked for the top performers among the hundreds of Canadian equity funds for the year ended Feb. 28. Then we further sorted for the strongest 10-year performance and compared the results to the total return on the S&P/TSX, in Canadian dollar terms. Closed funds as well as U.S. dollar, segregated and duplicate versions of funds were excluded.
This screen turned up some well-known winners such as Bissett Canadian Equity and Mawer Canadian Equity, but also shows that investors can make money while also doing good.
Several of the top funds were socially responsible investment (SRI) products, which try to balance social concerns with long-term returns. The top SRI performer was NEI Ethical Canadian Dividend A, which aims to encourage the companies it owns to improve their environmental, social and governance performance. The fund posted a 13-per-cent gain for the year to Feb. 28, compared to the S&P/TSX total return of 4.6 per cent. The fund’s 10-year annualized gains were 9.2 per cent.
Some 20 per cent of all assets under management in Canada are now invested in SRI funds, according to Ian Bragg, associate director at the Toronto-based Social Investment Organization. That works out to more than $600-billion of Canadian capital currently invested in SRI financial products.
Fees vary as much as their non-SRI counterparts, but Mr. Bragg says managers of SRI funds are also advocates. “If you’re buying the Meritas [Jantzi Social Index], NEI or PH&N [Community Values Canadian Equity] fund you’re also investing in a manager who is going to engage companies on your behalf,” he said, pointing to issues such as climate change, human rights and executive pay.
In this screen, some of the best one-year performers such as Mawer Canadian Equity and Leith Wheeler Canadian Equity weren’t SRIs, but their fees were among those at the lower end. That may help improve performance over the long term.
While all of the funds outpaced the benchmark’s 4.6-per-cent gain over one year, the picks had a little more trouble keeping up over the last decade.
Only two funds in the screen – again Mawer and Leith Wheeler – managed to top the S&P/TSX over the longer period.
We have decided to change the intention of our greenangels website & turn it into a resource centre for those who want to ‘make a difference while making a dollar’.
This concept means refocusing from self interest to other orientation. This may be perceived as the opposite of our current market based economy.
It is definitely a refocus from a single bottom line financial approach to the triple bottom line concept of social, environmental, & economic sustainability.
There is a balance required in this shift of perception. One has to come to terms with priorities & values. What is the definition of ‘enough’? When does the chase for monetization of wants end or at least slow down?
How do we put others before ourselves when we need to make a living? How do we invest in accord with our values? What are our values?
If sharing with others has a multiple return, then why not divert a high percentage of our income or assets?
It is our intention to cover impact, values based, & ethical investing, hybrid corporations, social innovation, & related resources.
Any suggestions or questions will always be welcome.
In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.
A couple, Michael & Martha Pennock, Victoria, B.C. helped the King of Bhutan formulate the GNH index. If you didn’t think that you as an ordinary individual could do anything significant, then check in with Mike & Martha. Following is the King’s inauguration speech:
Gross National Happiness
Coronation Address of His Majesty King Khesar, The 5th Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan 7th November, 2008
King Khesar: “It is with immense joy that we are gathered together on this most auspicious day. In these last 100 years the dreams and aspirations of our forefathers and the vision of our Kings have been fulfilled beyond all expectations. The wise and selfless leadership of our kings, the sacrifice and hard work of generations of Bhutanese and the special bond between the People and King have given us this unique and special nation – a jewel of the earth.
Two years ago, at a time of profound change I came onto the Throne as a young King. You, my people, in the spirit of generations past, worked with me with complete faith and gave me your wholehearted cooperation and goodwill. Thus, in these two short years while we have taken gigantic steps towards strengthening our nation, we have done so in a calm, deliberate manner in complete harmony. It is with great pride that we stand as new democracy, having successfully completed an unprecedented and historic transition.
Yet we must always remember that as our country, in these changing times finds immense new challenges and opportunities, whatever work we do, whatever goals we have – and no matter how these may change in this changing world – ultimately without peace, security and happiness we have nothing. That is the essence of the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Our most important goal is the peace and happiness of our people and the security and sovereignty of the nation.
Our generation of Bhutanese have been gifted a strong, dynamic nation by our forefathers. I am confident that as long as we are willing to work with their commitment and dedication and follow their example we can bring greater peace, happiness and prosperity to our country.
I am confident because I know the worth and character of our people. You are the true jewel of this nation. As citizens of a spiritual land you treasure the qualities of a good human being – honesty, kindness, charity, integrity, unity, respect for our culture and traditions, love for our country and for God. Throughout our history our parents have upheld these values and placed the common good above the self.
My deepest concern is that as the world changes we may lose these fundamental values on which rest our character as a nation and people. It is critical that we are able to recognize Bhutanese character irrespective of how far we look back into the past or into the future. The Bhutan we see is vastly different – unrecognizable even – when compared to the Bhutan in the time of our first King. Yet, the character of our people and the nature of our fundamental values have remained unchanged. Henceforth, as even more dramatic changes transform the world and our nation, as long as we continue to pursue the simple and timeless goal of being good human beings, and as long as we strive to build a nation that stands for everything that is good, we can ensure that our future generations for hundreds of years will live in happiness and peace.
It is not because I am King that I ask these of you. Destiny has put me here. It is with immense gratitude and humility that at this young age, I assume the sacred duty to serve a special people and country.
Throughout my reign I will never rule you as a King. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother and serve you as a son. I shall give you everything and keep nothing; I shall live such a life as a good human being that you may find it worthy to serve as an example for your children; I have no personal goals other than to fulfill your hopes and aspirations. I shall always serve you, day and night, in the spirit of kindness, justice and equality.
As the king of a Buddhist nation, my duty is not only to ensure your happiness today but to create the fertile ground from which you may gain the fruits of spiritual pursuit and attain good Karma.
This is how I shall serve you as King.
I cannot end without addressing our most important citizens – our youth. The future of our nation depends on the worth, capabilities and motivation of today’s youth. Therefore, I will not rest until I have given you the inspiration, knowledge and skills so that you not only fulfill your own aspirations but be of immense worth to the nation. This is my sacred duty. A strong motivated young Bhutan guarantees a strong bright future.
The future is neither unseen nor unknown. It is what we make of it. What work we do with our two hands today will shape the future of our nation. Our children’s tomorrow has to be created by us today.
I end with a prayer for Bhutan – that the sun of peace and happiness may forever shine on our people. I also pray that while I am but King of a small Himalayan nation, I may in my time be able to do much to promote the greater wellbeing and happiness of all people in this world – of all sentient beings.”