Do you know if your clients are interested in SRI?

Posted on by Paul Ellis

One of the biggest surprises I had as an advisor was how many of my clients were interested in SRI. But it shouldn’t have been! After all, I had been working with some of these clients for years when I decided to make SRI a specialty within my practice. I should have been more aware of how they felt about things like the environment, energy efficiency, and human rights abuses in overseas factory conditions.

In fact, I didn’t figure out that my own brothers were becoming example of sustainable business practices at the same time that I was shifting my focus to SRI. They never made a big deal out having 20,000 pine trees in the ground at the family farm, with a plan to harvest 1,000 per year and replant 1,000 per year starting in two years. And I’d been thinking I was the one in the family focused on sustainable business practices!

Harvesting Sinker Cypress

I recently returned from a visit to the farm, which is near New Orleans in Tangipahoa Parish. Farming pine trees, like SRI investing, begins with the long term perspective. Harvesting Sinker Cypress trees from the river bottom nearby involves, among other things, gulag-like work conditions according to my nephews. To my brothers it’s about using revenue producing available assets while you let the long-term growth assets surround you and sequester carbon for 20 years. For me, turning Sinker Cypress logs into beautiful tables, chairs and mirror frames is a great example of profitably recycling naturally preserved materials. It’s what we in the SRI field call a win-win situation—except for my nephews’ lower backs, of course.

The experience got me thinking about now many different ways there are to be sustainable in our economy, and how many people really want to pitch in and do their part for themselves and their families and communities. Those of us in the SRI industry sometimes lose sight of the way people and communities all over the country are creating the green and sustainable revolution right under our noses.

A quick review of my own community and clients reveals people who are driving hybrids, engaged in local sourcing of farm products, installing solar panels, riding bikes, reusing their grocery bag when they shop, and reviewing local water drainage and waste water systems to reduce runoff. And that’s just off the top of my head.

So advisors, if you’re not already having the SRI conversation with your clients, now is the time to start. Many of them will want to know that promoting sustainability doesn’t stop at the supermarket or the recycling center.

You should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses of an investment carefully before investing.