Sustainable America Blog

Making Impact Investing More Accessible for Everyone

Seedling

Photo: Emma Cooper via Flickr

Whether it’s called impact investing, socially responsible investing or sustainable investing, interest in making investments that support positive change is growing. Sustainable mutual funds represented $6.5 trillion at the beginning of 2014, an increase of 76 percent since 2012, according to a report from The Forum on Sustainable & Responsible Investment (US SIF). Brian Kaminer wants to see this still-young investing space grow even more, so he’s designed a way to help investors of all types get involved.

Kaminer launched the website, Invest With Values, to bring resources and information about the various sectors of sustainable investing together in one place. It’s designed to be a starting point for people like him who want to learn more about how to align their money with their values.

Invest With ValuesKaminer began focusing on how investing could be a tool for change after spending 17 years working in his family’s brokerage business. “While I was starting my own learning journey into investment’s role in sustainability, there were a lot of great resources, but I was spending a lot of time going down rabbit holes to find them,” he says. Kaminer used what he learned to start Talgra, a sustainable investment consulting firm, in 2007.

“Sharing what I was learning with friends and family, I realized that it would be very helpful to have a centralized, high level directory or resource that would bring everything together and also connect it in a helpful way,” says Kaminer. The directory started as an emailed pdf, then a website called The Money and Impact Investing Directory. Kaminer rebranded the site as Invest With Values in 2014.

Today, Invest With Values focuses on four main investment areas: local banking, community investing, impact investing, and socially responsible investing. It features a directory of over 300 resources that covers investment opportunities, events and conferences, educational programs, investment professionals, thought leaders, book recommendations, and more. It also includes a discussion forum and a news center that serves up curated articles from content providers like ImpactAlpha, TriplePundit, GreenMoney Journal.

Opportunities for Impact
Until recent years, it wasn’t very easy for people without a high-net worth to get involved with investments that could directly drive social or environmental change. But that is changing, according to Kaminer. Here are a few outlets he recommends looking into if you’d like to get started.

RSF Social Finance: RSF’s Social Investment Fund provides mortgage loans, working capital lines of credit, and inventory financing to non-profit and for-profit organizations dedicated to improving the well-being of society and the environment. The fund’s minimum investment level is $1,000 for a three month term. It generates a financial return similar to that of a bank CD.

Calvert Foundation: This Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) provides community development financing and services to underserved communities in the U.S. Calvert offers a variety of products, including the Community Investment Note, which enables anyone to make an investment as low as $20 in a professionally managed portfolio of high impact organizations creating jobs, building affordable housing, promoting education, protecting the environment, and creating numerous other social impacts.

Kiva Zip: An investment platform launched by Kiva in 2011, Kiva Zip lenders make zero-interest microfinance loans directly to borrowers in the U.S. and Kenya, many of whom are food and farming entrepreneurs. Lenders don’t earn interest, and repayment is not guaranteed, but the repayment rate is high.

Slow Money: Slow Money brings investors interested in supporting local food and farms together with entrepreneurs. Kaminer and eight other Slow Money NYC members recently established the Local Farms Fund that invests in farmland and provides younger farmers with access to lease the land with the right to purchase it in an equitable fashion. The fund has a $10,000 minimum.

These four options are just a slice of what’s available to investors who are motivated to use their money to generate positive social and environmental change. Visit investwithvalues.com to learn more.

Sustainable America believes in the power of entrepreneurs and markets to effect positive change. Our organization provides seed and angel-stage investments to help spur the development of sustainable food and fuel businesses. As the companies we support grow and generate revenues, we use the proceeds to provide capital for more investment. We invite you to learn more about the investments we’ve made and consider supporting our investment program.

Amy Leibrock
Blog Editor

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.


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