Barely into 2021, last year’s upheavals continue at warp speed. It’s becoming all the more urgent that if we want to see lasting change for the better, we all have to do our part to ensure the sustainability of our environment, our democracy, and our way of life.
We can’t return to normalcy by going backward. That’s why you want to choose sustainability for 2021 and beyond.
From finances to daily habits, here are some life-changing tips.
Socially responsible investing or SRI is an investment strategy that aims to maximize returns while benefiting philanthropic causes.
As an investor, choosing to combine the desire to make a positive impact on the planet with a positive growth of your portfolio is one of the most consequential decisions you can make.
Also known as impact investing, sustainable investing, or ethical investing, SRI may be the right choice for you if you seek to support companies that pursue a positive sustainable or societal impact that aligns with your values. Examples of such impact include business ethics, technology and production processes, philanthropic engagement, or—as seen in the news right now—their backing or criticism of political officials.
Key components of SRI investing.
- Understand that the basics of SRI are the same as standard investing: Do you want to invest in individual stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, or a combination? Build a sustainable portfolio that balances your risk tolerance, time-horizon, and financial goals. Pay attention to a fund’s expense ratio and fees.
- Consider what “socially responsible” means to you. Identify your priorities and values. What’s important to you, and where do you want to make a difference?
- Review prospectuses, research reputable news outlets, and talk to your financial investment advisor to determine which stocks and mutual funds meet your definition of SRI. Learn to differentiate between funds that merely exclude companies or industries that don’t meet certain ethical standards, e.g., heavy polluters, and those that strategically invest in companies with specific, sustainable practices or products.
- Start slowly if you like. Pick a couple of investments that appeal to you from an SRI perspective and see how they fit into your current portfolio.
You are always welcome to reach out to us to explore integrating SRI into your investment strategy.
Make Sustainability Personal
Sustainability begins with you and the things you do every day at home, in your office, and in your community.
You can make many small (and bigger) changes to use less energy, waste fewer resources, and improve the health of our planet. Welcome these lifestyle choices as acts of self-care, not a denial or inconvenience. As a bonus, most, if not all of these changes, will save you money.
The 3 R’s
The mantra Reduce, Reuse and Recycle is as relevant today as in the 1970s when the phrase originated.
First, actively reduce the amount of waste you produce. Here are just a few possibilities:
- Switch to paperless billing and record-keeping. Pay your bills electronically, rather than checks. Insider tip: If you automate your payments, you’ll avoid late charges and you might even receive a financial incentive for going paperless.
- Bring your reusable bags when grocery shopping.
- Use cleaning rags and fabric napkins instead of paper products.
- Try beeswax wrap as an ecologically sound alternative to disposable plastic baggies and cellophane foil.
- Resist buying items supposedly designed to help conserve resources. Yes, you can eliminate waste by switching from drinking bottled water to tap water, but only if you drink out of glasses you already own. Purchasing several new water bottles would defeat the purpose of saving resources.
Reuse all items as often as you can before replacing or discarding them. Clean and maintain them properly to extend their lifetime.
Recycle products by using them for a new purpose. Empty jam jars make excellent containers for leftovers. Line your trash can with disposable shopping bags from the grocery or discount store. Use empty Amazon delivery boxes to organize your garage. If your municipality offers recycling services for paper, aluminum, glass, and plastics, take advantage of them.
For more ideas, contact your local utility companies for suggestions on how to reduce energy and environmental and conservation groups in your area for other sustainable habits you can integrate into your life.
Sustain your health and wellness
Do you invest in your health and wellness? Your portfolio and environmental activism won’t benefit you if you’re not around. Be mindful of the four cornerstones of health: proper nutrition, adequate rest, stress management, and regular exercise. They won’t guarantee you a long, healthy life, but they are likely to protect you from lifestyle-related diseases (e.g., obesity, diabetes, or high blood pressure), save you medical costs, and increase your quality of life.
Shop (Environmentally) Smart
Your spending habits say a lot about your commitment to sustainability.
In addition to the 3 R’s, try some of the following approaches.
- Buy locally produced items, especially produce, dairy and oils, to cut down on pollution generated by long-distance transport.
- Patronize your independently-owned stores and entrepreneurs to sustain a vibrant business and retail community in your hometown. While it may be initially cheaper and more convenient to order online, shop at the big chains, or contract with a nationwide service provider, you will save money in the long run by being a good neighborhood customer. Those human connections are the lifeblood of any community, resulting in higher-performing schools, increased property values, and neighborly aid and support, all of which can have a positive impact on your finances.
- Pick experiences over consuming. Spending doesn’t equal special. If your typical family outing consists of Sunday brunch at a pricy restaurant, explore the city park or nature conserve instead. You may develop new favorite activities that bring you closer to your spouse or children without a single product landing in a landfill.
We live in a disposable economy. But with mindful, rather than random, spending, you can do your part to increase sustainability.
Donate To Sustainable Causes
You may be on board already, doing everything possible to minimize your environmental footprint, and you may wonder, can you do anything else?
Yes. Donate to causes and organizations that focus on sustainability. Volunteering may also be a good choice.
Many worthy non-profit organizations promote goals in sync with your values.
But before becoming involved, do your homework, just as you would with SRI prospects. Search media coverage, review their website and social media pages, check their 990 statements (available at your local library), and find out who’s serving on their board of directors.
Be careful of overlapping missions. Many charities operate in a “crowded field,” i.e., they serve the same goal but through different activities. Rather than achieving economies of scale, they end up competing for limited donor support. So check which organization generates the greatest impact for the most beneficiaries.
Assisting the right organization with your money and time can be very rewarding. If you are an involved supporter, you may also be able to help them craft or expand socially responsible business practices and goals.
Continue your journey to sustainability today
Since we’re just a few weeks into January, these tips to make your finances more sustainable all year round may read like New Year’s resolutions. That’s a good thing because resolutions mean a fresh, energetic, and motivating start. Even if we start wobbling, it’s the trying that counts. At this point in our world, we must all try.
The good news is, you’re not alone. We’re all in this together, and we’re here to cheer you on and help fine-tune your plans. Give us a call or send us an email anytime. We look forward to accomplishing great things with you.