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Trends in Ethical Investing


The criteria used in negative or positive socially responsible investment strategies tend to reflect current social and environmental concerns, and their profile has therefore changed over time, from concerns about nuclear weapons and South African apartheid in the 1970s and 1980s, to a more recent focus on non-discriminatory employment practices, concerns over global warming and an increasingly important emphasis on activities promoting sustainable development. It has been predicted that key themes for socially responsible investment in 2006 will include alternative energy sources, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and healthcare.

The nature of socially responsible investing has also changed over time, with a trend towards socially responsible shareholders being more involved in the management of the companies they invest in, and a growing expectation that socially responsible companies and ethical mutual funds will contribute to and support community initiatives.

Recently, corporations and international organizations have been pro-active in driving the growth of socially responsible investment. A number of the biggest and best known corporations in the USA and Canada, including Ford and Rockefeller, have formed a Funders Network for Smart Growth and Liveable Communities, with the specific purpose of identifying ways in which their portfolios can best be invested in real estate projects which are consistent with social and ethical values, while promoting sustainable development (Pensions Management, 3/1/2005). Similarly, the United Nations has implemented an international project involving 15 of the world's largest investment companies, to develop a set of responsible investment guidelines.

The extraordinary growth in this sector of the investment market as compared with other types of investments is indicative of the high level of investor confidence in socially responsible investments, as well as the increasingly widespread conviction that personal financial planning can be consistent with supporting worthy causes.

On the whole, socially responsible investments have been shown to perform just as well, if not better, than more traditional forms of investment, a pattern which has been sustained over time.

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