I’ve had money troubles for years -- not the kind of trouble, thankfully, that makes it hard to pay my mortgage or my Netflix subscription. My problem has always been this: What do I do with my savings other than (a) earn zero-interest in my community bank checking account; or (b) turn my hard-earned money over to casino capitalists who will invest it in environmentally catastrophic projects and/or gamble it on dicey financial products like credit default swaps that devastate the lives of end users?
Sure, there are some socially responsible (“SRI”) mutual funds but, upon careful inspection, I discovered that “responsible” is a flexible term. One of my SRI funds, for example, holds shares in Pepsi and Wells Fargo--really? Here I am trying to keep my money out of banks that abuse and defraud their customers, and here’s my SRI fund investing in a bank that, according to the Wall St. Journal, has $17.5 billion of foreclosed homes on their books. And don’t even get me started on Pepsi except to point out: If I won’t let my son drink it, why would I invest in it?
My funds also hold shares in a number of companies that I could generously characterize as “neutral” -- they’re not, for example, blowing up mountaintops, but they’re not really doing anything with a positive impact either. I thought the whole idea of SRIs was to support businesses that are taking the lead around sustainability innovations. Guess not.
Strike One: My SRI funds aren’t as responsible as they’re cracked up to be. Strike Two: They’re not earning me squat. Last year, my largest fund gained a whopping $117--less than a 1% return.
Just as I was on the verge of pulling out all my money and buying a bunker full of canned beans in preparation for the Mayan Doomsday, I learned about Mosaic. It was love at first sight. I’ve had solar on my own home for eleven years and have heard the laments of many friends who wish they could go solar but don’t own a home or don’t have a high enough electricity bill to make it worthwhile (darn those Berkeley energy misers!). Here was a solution for all of us -- an innovative and lucrative place for me to invest my money while supporting the ramping up of clean energy and a chance for my friends to go solar minus the PV panels. I invested in Mosaic not merely to avoid doing bad, but to proactively support the clean energy revolution upon whose success our planet (and my portfolio) will thrive or fall.
My decision was clinched when I read that Mercer Consulting issued a report advising its institutional investors to shift 40% of their portfolios into climate-sensitive sectors to safeguard returns against the impact of global warming. If that advice is good enough for Mercer’s 2700 clients and their $3.5 billion in assets, it’s good enough for me.
Doomsday prophecies aside, the world is a bit unstable. Retail and manufacturing are on the wane, currencies are tottering, and ecosystems are failing. The only sure thing is that the world needs more and more clean energy to power homes and data centers and to grow and transport food and other necessities to seven billion people and counting. I’m betting on Mosaic.
Follow Erica Etelson @iluvsolar
Editor’s Note: The author, Erica Etelson, is providing free consulting services to Mosaic. The opinions expressed in this post are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Mosaic.