"Our human destiny is inextricably linked to the actions of all other living things. Respecting this principle is the fundamental challenge in changing the nature of business."
- Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce


Ten Ways to Invest in a Better World

First published in Corporate Knights, January 2004.

1. Invest in Sustainable Businesses

You’ve read about the companies that are developing solar energy, hydrogen, and organic food - but how do you invest in them? The Social Investment Organization lists all Canada’s ethical and socially responsible funds, and has a list of recommended stocks, with the technical details your broker will want.

Social Investment Organization:  

2. Invest in the Social Leaders
The Real Assets Social Leaders Fund invests in companies that are providing leadership for a better world. It holds a portfolio of stocks from companies selected for their social, environmental, ethical and financial performance, including Canadian Hydro Developers, Interface Inc., and Zenon Environmental.
Real Assets:

3. Invest in Nature
Companies come and go, but an investment in the land will last forever, paying spiritual dividends to your grandchildren long after you have become a wisp of ancient memory. The Nature Conservancy of Canada says that over the next twenty years, millions of acres of private lands must be conserved if we are to preserve Canada’s natural diversity and endangered species. In 2003, they helped secure portions of the aspen parkland in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and Bickford Oakwoods in southwestern Ontario.
Nature Conservancy of Canada:

4. Invest in Third World Microenterprises
The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh is one of the 20th century’s greatest social inventions. By providing small loans to groups of impoverished women, it helps them lift themselves out of poverty. VanCity Savings’ International Community Investment Deposits supports their struggle by providing low-interest loans to micro-credit and other non-profit community initiatives in developing countries.
International Community Investment Deposits:

5. Invest in Your Planet – through Your Home
The ice is melting, and the temperature is rising. We absolutely have to reduce our planetary emissions from burning fossil fuels, and making your home more efficient is as good as any place to start. If you invest in a home retrofit, and some efficient light-bulbs and appliances, you will reduce the amount of coal and gas that has to be burnt in your name. You will also realize a great return, ranging from 10% to 40% per year.
Residential Energy Efficiency:

6. Invest in a Bicycle
“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” - HG Wells (1866 - 1946). A bicycle is a passport to a world beyond fossil fuels; it may be the best investment you ever make. And if not a bike, how about a more efficient car? The 2004 Toyota Prius, averaging 66 mpg, will cost $30,000, but it could save you $1,000 a year in fuel.
23 Tips for the Best Cycling:

7. Invest in Your Health
How much would you pay to enjoy an extra twenty years in good health? For some, all the wealth in the world. So ditch the junk food, ditch the couch, and make a commitment to walk, ride, run, and eat healthy organic food. Our bodies evolved on the plains of Africa, and they crave exercise. It’s an investment you’ll never regret.
Alive Journal of Natural Health:

8. Invest in Your Local Community
Our communities are full of people who struggle to get by, and whose children grow up disadvantaged. VanCity has a Community Investment Deposit for local residents which offers reduced interest loans to community groups in the Vancouver region for job creation, affordable housing and environmental protection. You earn a lower rate of interest, but your heart will count the dividends. There are 57 similar funds in Canada.
VanCity Community Investment Deposits:
Community Investment Funds:

9. Invest in Yourself
“Therefore search and see if there is not some place where you may invest your humanity.”- Albert Schweitzer (1875 - 1965). Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. Wouldn’t it be great to wake up each morning with excitement, to know that you were being true to your humanity? No easy website here: just your own inner voice.

10. Invest in the Golden Rule
“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.” - Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862). When you come to meet your maker, it will be the wealth in your heart, not the wealth in your bank, that you count. There’s a very easy way to build this wealth: practice kindness, and invest in the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’ll pay you back a thousandfold.
A Revolution in Kindness, by Anita Roddick:

Guy Dauncey is the author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change and Earthfuture: Stories from a Sustainable World (New Society Publishers). He is a green buildings and sustainable communities consultant, who lives in Victoria, BC. His website is