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Environmental investing: 6 tips for investing with impact

Look beyond returns by reevaluating how you grow and spend your money

Gone are the days of choosing between sustainable change and growing your wealth. Turns out, you can do both with the same dollar. Here are seven ways for environmental and socially responsible investing without sacrificing returns.

1. Invest in securities that support green initiatives

The socially responsible investing sector grew from $8.7 trillion in 2016 to more than $12.0 trillion in 2018 — a staggering 38% increase, according to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance. This pace is expected to continue as more people strive to invest in a way that aligns with their values.

Invest with a conscience through three main types of green investments:

  • Green mutual funds. These funds are made up of socially conscious companies looking to promote environmental responsibility. For example, the Aspiration Redwood Fund is a fossil fuel–free fund comprising sustainable businesses focused on people and the planet.
  • Green ETFs. Invest in climate change with ETFs made up of hundreds of individual companies focused on improving the planet. Popular options are Invesco WilderHill Clean Energy ETF (PBW) and iShares Global Clean Energy ETF (ICLN).
  • Green stocks. If you know of green businesses you’d like to support — such as renewable energy or electric vehicle companies — skip socially responsible mutual funds and ETFs and invest directly in them.

2. Invest in green bonds

Green bonds are just like regular bonds, but funds go toward environmental projects to fight climate change, prevent pollution, protect ecosystems, provide clean water and more. To sweeten the deal, many green bonds come with attractive tax incentives.

Some popular green bonds to consider are:

  • IShares Global Green Bond (BRGN)
  • VanEck Vectors Green Bond (GRNB)
  • Domini Social Bond Fund (DFBSX)
  • CSIF Bond Portfolio A (CSIBX)
  • TIAA-CREF Core Impact Bond Fund (TSBIX)

3. Join a banking alternative that gives back to the environment

Have you ever stopped to think about how your bank generates a profit? It’s not uncommon for institutions to invest your money in oil and other projects that destroy the environment.

Put your dollars to good use by looking for fossil fuel-free banks and credit unions that hold environmental certifications, such as:

  • B-corp. Certified B-corporations are for-profit institutions that have taken a pledge to do social and environmental good.
  • Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV). GABV is a network of 62 financial institutions that are committed to increasing the social, economic and environmental sustainability of the banking system.
  • 1% For The Planet. Financial institutions that join the 1% For The Planet movement pledge to donate at least 1% of their sales to approved nonprofits.

One digital banking alternative that gives back to the environment is Aspiration. It’s fossil fuel free, a registered B-corp, has taken the 1% For The Planet pledge and is completely digital — further reducing your carbon footprint.

4. Spend on eco-friendly brands

Look at what brands you’re currently spending your money on and see if there are any eco-friendly alternatives.

If you love a good hamburger but don’t want to contribute to the meat industry, try Beyond Meat. If you want to reduce toilet paper waste, try Who Gives A Crap — toilet paper made from 100% recycled paper or bamboo. Better yet, get a bidet. Trust me. It will change your life.

Accounts like Aspiration Spend & Save give you cash back for shopping with eco-conscious brands. It also tracks your spending and assigns a sustainability score based on where you shop. The more consciously you spend your money, the higher your score.

5. Invest in crowdfunding campaigns for green businesses

There are crowdfunding sites for almost everything these days — real estate, peer-to-peer lending, donations and even green businesses. If you’re eager to help a budding business and make an impact on the environment, here are two platforms to check out:

  • Indiegogo. This crowdfunding giant has an entire section on its website dedicated to the Environment, as well as one on Energy and Green Tech. Simply read through campaigns under each section and fund any that align with your values and goals.
  • Startsomegood. This platform splits its environmental causes up by niche categories like animal rights, disaster response, human rights, food and more. Pick a category that’s dear to your heart and fund any campaigns that resonate with you.

6. Donate to an environmental group

Sometimes the most effective way to make a change is to donate to the organizations that are already making a difference. There are several environmental charities and groups that have strong, evidence-based track records for actively fighting climate change. Some of those are:

  • Environmental Defense Fund. As one of the world’s leading environmental organizations, the EDF is making strides toward creating solutions for issues like global warming, human health, overfishing, pollution and more.
  • The Nature Conservancy. This charitable environmental organization has over 1 million members and has helped protect more than 119 million acres of land and thousands of miles of rivers since its start in 1951.

What are the benefits of sustainable investing?

Investing for the environment has green benefits. But it also has financial ones. As sustainable investing has grown in popularity over the years, recent research suggests that it can be even more profitable than regular investing. Here’s why:

  • Green companies typically have a higher environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) rating, which lowers the company’s exposure to risk.
  • Green companies are typically more future-focused and foster a stronger spirit of innovation, which can often lead to greater profits and higher dividends.

Bottom line

There’s never been a better time to invest for the environment — whether it’s through donating to charity, investing in green securities or comparing environmentally friendly banks and alternatives. Think through your financial goals, then choose the methods that will empower you to put your dollars to good use. And while you’re out, check out guide for even more ways to invest in socially minded companies and products.

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Cassidy Horton is a freelance personal finance copywriter and past contributing writer for Finder. Her writing and banking expertise have been featured in Forbes Advisor, Money, The Balance, Money Under 30,, and other top digital publishers. She holds a BS in public relations and an MBA from Georgia Southern University. See full bio

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