“Should I invest in the world I’m in? Or the one I want?” asks an advertisement from UBS AG. The wealth management ad defines an evolving approach to sustainable investing (first called exclusion, then integration, and then impact). The question of sustainable investing clearly sits on a high fulcrum for retirement plan fiduciaries, when contrasted with “traditional investing” which is typically understood to focus on maximizing financial gains with little to no explicit consideration of social or environmental impact.
But last October, the Department of Labor redefined sustainable investing by issuing an Interpretive Bulletin (IB 2015-01) that gives ERISA plan fiduciaries the green light to complement “traditional investing” with sustainable investing models that include socially responsible strategies. Fiduciaries may consider environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria as complements to economic analysis. In the case where the economic merits of two investments justify both investments, a fiduciary can consider ESG criteria as the tie-breaker in that investment decision. These strategies might exclude companies with unsustainable characteristics or ESG strategies that include best-in-class selection of companies exhibiting best practices in corporate social responsibility.
With ERISA fiduciaries, which includes investment managers of pensions, 401(k)s, and retirement funds, now free to evaluate investments on these non-financial merits, retirement investors can expect to be provided more information about ESG issues in their retirement accounts. Much of the wealth management press has written about the ardent interest of high net worth “Millennials” to invest with an eye toward societal impact and their personal ethical values. But average worth Millennial retirement
investors and even Gen X’rs share interests in investing with values and impact. This should not be so difficult to imagine when you look at world issues today, ranging from global warming, to drought, to terrorism.
The application of ESG investing tools and analysis allows investment managers to cross-check their economic investment decisions against the company or portfolio’s ESG rating. These ESG scores have matured as they have garnered seven years of data points and have been applied to investments with improving methodologies. Today’s ratings combine numerous elements captured from government fillings, NGO disclosures, and corporate self-reporting from an increasingly wide array of sustainability criteria. All of this newly–available information makes the data more relevant to investors and potentially correlative to superior financial performance.
The sophistication behind these ratings has also deepened as it has been calibrated to the relevance of the scoring criteria to the industry or region of a given company’s business. These indicators are further cross–referenced to matrices shaped by the companies or institutionally by organizations like the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB). Relevance and materiality are important because not every sustainability issue may impact every company. Wastewater might be more impactful to a company or its community in manufacturing compared to the banking or insurance industries, for example. There are, however, issues that can have a universal impact, such as global warming which has impacts ranging from agricultural production all the way to catastrophe modeling that predicts natural disasters at insurance companies.
Ask yourself this: Are you willing to give up 0.5% return to save the planet?
The great news today is that you don’t have to concede that 0.5%.
In fact, you might post a gain on the broad market financial benchmarks and do it with lower risk. Formidable research over the last three years has shown this to be the case. The obstacle that remains is only the morass of marketing on Wall Street. I encourage retirement investors to look at their pension, 401(k), or state retirement plan, and ask, what impact is my retirement portfolio making on the world? And then ask your plan fiduciary: how can I measure it? If they can not answer this, tell them that the Department of Labor says they should.
Want to Connect With Nature? Start by Disconnecting From Busyness
Have you ever found yourself staring at one of your (many) devices and feeling slightly disgusted with how much time you waste on technology? If so, you aren’t alone. We all have moments like these and it’s important that we use them as motivation to change – especially if we want to be more connected with nature.
How Busyness Impacts Your Connection With Nature
Whether you realize it or not, you live an ultra connected life. Between smart phones, tablets, computers, and wearable devices, you’re never very far from some sort of technology that can connect you to the internet or put you in touch with other people. That’s just the world we live in.
While it could be argued that this sort of omnipresent connectivity is a positive thing, it’s also pretty clear that being permanently tethered to technology impacts our ability to strip away distractions and connect with nature.
When you’re always within arm’s reach of a device, you feel a sense of busyness. Whether it’s browsing your social media feed, uploading a picture, reading the news, or responding to an email, there’s always something to do. As someone who wants to spend more time in nature, this is problematic.
4 Practical Ways to Disconnect
If you want to truly connect with nature and live a greener lifestyle, you have to be proactive about finding ways to disconnect. Here are a few practical suggestions:
1. Switch to a New Phone Plan
It’s not always practical to totally unplug from the world. Family and work responsibilities mean you can’t go off the grid and continue to fulfill your responsibilities. Having said that, there are some ways to scale back.
One suggestion is to switch to a prepaid phone plan. When you have a prepaid phone plan, you’re far less likely to spend hours and hours of your time making phone calls, sending texts, and surfing the web. It forces you to be more conscious of what you’re doing.
2. Get Rid of Social Media
Social media is one of the biggest time wasters for most people. Whether you realize it or not, it’s also a huge stressor. You’re constantly being exposed to the best snapshots of everyone else’s lives, which makes you feel like you’re missing out on something (even when you aren’t).
If you want to feel a sense of relief and free yourself up to spend more time in nature, get rid of social media. Don’t just delete the apps off your phone – actually disable your accounts. It’s a bold, yet necessary step.
3. Create Quiet Hours
If you aren’t able to get rid of social media and disable various online accounts, the next best thing you can do is establish quiet hours each day where you totally detach from technology. You should do this for a minimum of three hours per day for best results.
4. Build Community
Do you know why we’re drawn to social media and our devices? Whether consciously or subconsciously, it’s because we all want to be connected to other people. But do you know what’s better than connecting with people online? Connecting with them in person.
As you build real life, person-to-person relationships, you’ll feel less of a need to constantly have your eyes glued to a screen. Connect with other people who have an appreciation for nature and bond over your mutual interests.
Untether Your Life
If you find yourself constantly connected to a device, then this is probably a clear indicator that you aren’t living your best life. You certainly aren’t enjoying any sort of meaningful connection with nature. Now’s as good a time as any to untether your life and explore what a world free from cords, screens, and batteries is really like.
6 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Move
Moving can be a stressful and challenging time. No matter how many times you’ve done it in the past, the process of packing up, transporting, and unpacking isn’t very fun. It’s also not very eco-friendly. As you prepare for your next move, there are things you can do to ensure you leave less of a footprint behind.
6 Tips for a Greener Move
Because of the stress and pressure felt when moving, it’s pretty common for people to rush through the process and focus on getting it done. In fact, a lot of people take an “at all costs” approach; they’ll do whatever it takes to make the process as cheap and fast as possible. Don’t be one of those people. It doesn’t take much effort to turn a standard move into an eco-friendly move.
1. Maximize Each Trip
When moving across town, it’s imperative that you make as few trips as possible. Each trip requires more gas, more emissions, and more waste, and more time.
If you’re taking your personal vehicle, consider pulling a trailer behind it. You’d be surprised how much stuff you can fit into a small trailer. Not only will it make your move greener, but it’ll also save you a lot of time.
2. Donate Things You Don’t Want to Keep
The longer you live somewhere, the more junk you accumulate. This isn’t always obvious until you start packing for a big move. Instead of bringing all of these things with you to your next home, get rid of the stuff you don’t need! If the items are useful, donate them. If the items don’t have much value, toss them.
3. Reuse Moving Boxes
Not only are moving boxes expensive, but they’re also wasteful. If you need a bunch of cardboard boxes, consider looking around on Craigslist, asking friends, or checking the dumpsters behind stores. You can usually find a bunch of recycled boxes of all different shapes and sizes. Here are 12 places you can get them for free.
4. Get Creative With Packing
Who says you need moving boxes? You may find that it’s possible to do most of your move without all that cardboard. Things like storage containers, trashcans, filing cabinets, buckets, and dressers can all store items. Blankets and sheets can be used in lieu of bubble wrap to prevent your items from getting damaged.
5. Use Green Cleaning Supplies
Once you arrive at your new place, resist the urge to pull out a bunch of harsh chemicals to clean the place. You can do yourself (and the planet) a favor by using green cleaning supplies instead. Ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and ammonia are great to start with.
6. Forward Your Mail ASAP
Don’t delay in forwarding your mail from your previous address to your new one. Not only is it wasteful for the Postal Service to route your mail to a place where you don’t live, but the next owner is probably just going to toss your letters in the trash.
Moving Doesn’t Have to be Wasteful
Most people only move once every few years. Some people will go a decade or more without a move. As a result, the process of moving often feels strange and new. The less experience you have with it, the less likely it is that you’ll be as efficient as you should. But instead of just diving into the process blind, take some time to learn about what an eco-friendly move looks like. That way, you can leave behind the smallest footprint possible.
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