The US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment held their annual conference May 10-12 in Chicago. US SIF is the trade organization that represents investors and firms focused on sustainability and impact. They are the domestic organization here in the United States but are also part of a global network of similar organizations in countries around the world. Often, if you read a letter to the editor or an article representing the interests of SRI investors, it has come from US SIF.
As we represent you and want to keep you informed on what is going on in this industry and world, we attend these events to keep ourselves informed on the most recent goings on and ensure your portfolios are doing their best to do good as well as give back return on your investments. All the associates at SWFA are members of US SIF.
We will often write blogs about the environmental impact of investments and what is going on to mitigate climate and environmental risk. For this article, I am going to shift gears and focus on the human impact and stay close to home, here in the US. For me, the sessions at the conference that held the newest information and offered the most hope for our country moving forward were firms rebuilding rural communities, small cities, racial justice and equity.
As I think was clear from the last election, the US population is divided in some profound ways. Fortunately, many US SIF speakers and attendees are focusing on ways to bridge some of the economic divide. I want to point out a few people and firms doing great work. We will be keeping a close eye on them and hope to support their efforts.
Jacob Israelow, the founder of Dirt Capital is doing amazing things to help support farmers in the Northeast. Their firm loans money to farmers that may be renting land, to help them buy and build equity in more sustainable farming practices. They also loan money to farmers to help upgrade to more efficient and sustainable practices. It has the impact of improving farmers lives, local economies in the US, and improving our food supply with more healthy alternatives.
Tom Croft, the executive director of Steel Valley Authority, was commissioned by the AFL-CIO to look at workers’ money in pensions and see how it could be used to support workers and reinvest in the US with decent paying jobs, as well as support economies of smaller cities. He wrote The Responsible Investor Handbook. We will be both reading this within our firm and seeing if there are ways we can work with Tom to help support his efforts.
Darrin Williams, the CEO of Southern Bancorp, is making a big difference in helping people finance homes and businesses in rural America. As the larger banks merge and pull out of rural communities, it has left a huge void in banking options to lower income folks, particularly in the south. There are more payday check cashing, or what we call predatory lending, facilities in Mississippi than there are Starbucks and McDonald’s. Southern Bancorp is bringing ethical banking and options to many people where there haven’t been options. We encourage you to check them out for your online banking needs.
Along with these great firms and people, we also had a powerful keynote from Bryan Stevenson, one of the leading voices on racial injustice and inequity in America. I will dedicate my next post entirely to him and that topic.
Sustainable World Financial Advisors.