What Does It Mean to Be Green?

When some people hear the term "green investing," they often dismiss everything that follows as "tree hugger stuff." After all, investing is about making money and not being too concerned about the environmental impact companies have in making it. However, there has been a shift in both the board rooms of major corporations and the portfolios of investors, toward getting more "green", only now they're not talking about money.

Green investing involves putting money into companies that actively promote environmental responsibility. But will green investing actually put any green in your wallet?

The Old Ways

The traditional economic approach toward the world's environment is largely centered on generating a profit. Trees are made to be cut down and sold, land is made to be developed, and animals (when they are considered at all) are either raised to sell or—in the case of rare fish, birds, amphibians, etc.—are treated as impediments to deforestation and land development.

Most credible experts agree that this approach to the environment has contributed to a host of environmental problems, including global warming, pollution, the extinction of some animal species, deforestation and drought.

The New Ways

The major environmental concerns that have arisen as a result of economic development are now gaining attention and have generated a host of concern. They have also generated a heightened awareness of the importance of the environment.

As a result, businesses are either seeking to operate in environmentally friendly ways or seeking to solve some of the problems that industry creates for the natural world. And it's not limited to companies that sell hemp T-shirts or biodegradable pots made from cow dung—even major corporations (and major polluters) are jumping on board. 

Environmentally Friendly Operations

While operating in an environmentally friendly manner is a new way of doing business for most firms, some of the biggest names in business are giving it a try. Although many companies still have a long way to go, Cisco Systems (CSCO), McCormick & Company Inc (MKC), and American Water Works Company Inc (AWK) are U.S. companies in the top 15 of the 2021 Global 100 list of the world's most sustainable corporations—a ranking of sustainability and environmental impact.

Seeking to Solve Problems

Solving the world's environmental problems is big business. Efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels have spawned a host of enterprises ranging from wind farms to alternative fuels, and these aren't pie-in-the-sky efforts. For example, in 2007, legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens launched a bid to build one of the biggest wind farms in the United States (he later sold his stake, but was an active advocate against oil-dependence and renewable energy until his passing 2019).

Energy giant General Electric also partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy in the design and manufacture of wind turbines, while other major energy companies develop clean coal technologies. Tesla (TSLA) has also been a huge driver of sustainable initiatives over the past years, followed by numerous other car manufacturers jumping on the trend of electric and hybrid cars.

Other companies are reclaiming brownfield (abandoned or underutilized) industrial sites, designing energy efficient appliances, creating new products from recycled materials, engaging in sustainable farming practices, and developing methods to reduce air pollution. These companies are all looking for ways to solve problems, operate in more environmentally friendly ways and run profitable enterprises.

The Roots of Green

The concept of green investing is an outgrowth of the socially responsible investing movement. Socially responsible investors often seek to avoid investing in companies that produce products such as alcohol, tobacco, and firearms; green investors seek to put their money into supporting companies that protect the environment. While the movement has taken a while to generate momentum, the outlook looks bright as concerns about energy and the environment continue to mount. 

Supporting Green

If you are ready to go green, investing in companies that engage in environmentally friendly practices is the easiest and most obvious way to show your support. Not only do you get to feel good about your investment, but you also get to make a profit if the enterprise is successful. Less obvious, but not to be overlooked, is the opportunity to vote with your dollars in other ways.

In addition to buying stock in environmentally friendly companies or companies engaged in efforts to solve environmental problems, you can also purchase their products. You'll get to enjoy the products themselves and every dollar you spend will help to support your investment. In a similar fashion, if you identify companies that operate in ways that are detrimental to the environment, you can choose to keep their stocks out of your portfolio and their products out of your home.

Article Sources
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  1. Corporate Knights. "2021 Global 100 Ranking."

  2. The New York Times. "T. Boone Pickens Is Dead; Oil Magnate and Corporate Raider Was 91."

  3. Pickens Plan. "About the Pickens Plan."

  4. U.S. Department of Energy. "Energy Department Reports: Wind Energy Continues Rapid Growth in 2016."

  5. U.S. Environmental and Protection Agency. "Supporting Brownfields Redevelopment Using Tax Incentives and Credits."

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