by Joel Solomon with Tyee Bridge
New Society Publishers, April 2017. Review by Guy Dauncey.
This is a great book. It’s personal, committed, passionate, informative, and full of great stories. For an addicted change-the-worlder, what more can you ask?
And the stories, from Joel’s personal life and those of his colleagues, are about one of the most important challenges we need to embrace on our planet – changing the way we invest our money.
Over the next thirty years the baby-boomers will pass $100 trillion to the next generation
That’s no small challenge. Over the next thirty years the baby-boomers will pass $100 trillion to the next generation. That’s a hundred million $1,000,000 legacies. If we are thoughtless, if we act without vision or if we act without purpose, that money will support the dying decades of fossil-fuel felonies. It will pump more carbon into the atmosphere, suck more fish out of the sea and drive more species to extinction.
If we are not thoughtless, however, it could have a tremendous impact. “Over the next the decades,” Joel writes, “I propose we shift that $100 trillion from destructive and misdirected uses to regenerative ones.”
If you have a comfortable amount of savings, you can do one of three things:
First, you can do nothing, trusting your bank or investment advisor to invest your money for you. Right.
Or, you can find a socially responsible investment advisor and direct her or him to invest your money in funds that are free of fossil fuels and other undesirables.
Or, you can do what Joel Solomon has done for much of his life and invest your money in start-ups that are committed to making a difference in the world. It’s called impact investing, social ventures, or mission venture investing, and Joel’s book is full of examples, many in the field of healthy organic food and farming, such as Stonyfield natural yoghurt and Ben & Jerry’s, and regenerative urban design – Joel used some of his inheritance to invest in urban start-ups that helped turn Nashville around and make it what it is today.
One in five dollars
Back in the 1980s, when some early pioneers wanted to be sure that their savings were not supporting apartheid in South Africa, there were no socially responsible investment funds. By the end of 2016 one in five dollars under professional management in the US – $8.72 trillion – was being invested with socially responsibility in mind. The movement is steaming along, and we’ve hardly begun.
I was speaking to an audience of environmentally conscious elderly people in Vancouver recently, and I asked how many knew where their savings were being invested. Out of a hundred people, only eight hands went up. Imagine the change we will be able to nourish when it becomes the norm to invest our savings with the same level of attention that we give to personal washing, washing up, and recycling.
A great guide to the adventure
We understand the word ‘clean’ – so we need to clean our money too, and Joel’s book is a great guide to the adventure. Each of us has brain cells that are sitting idle, waiting to be inspired by stories of the clean money revolution, and once they are fired up they want to get engaged.
If you want an advisor who can shift your investments to socially responsible funds, in Canada go to the Responsible Investment Association (www.riacanada.ca), and click on the map to find a local advisor. In the US, go to www.ussif.org, and click on the Financial Services Directory. In Britain, go to www.ethicalinvestment.org.uk and click on ‘Find a financial advisor’.
If you want to be socially adventurous, I can’t think of a better start than Joel’s book. It’s a great field guide to investing with purpose, and it’s also full of the honesty and wisdom that older age hopefully brings.
“Let’s be billionaires of good deeds, billionaires of love, billionaires of meaning and purpose.”
“Intellectually,” Joel writes, “I’m highly pessimistic. Logic tells me we are in a heap of trouble. But I have no clue what the future will bring. I’m simply not smart enough for that. I’ve planted my flag in the camp of hope, faith, love. I must believe in a brilliant, resilient future.”
And what about that $100 trillion? To cap off his storytelling, Joel takes a stab at investing it: $10 trillion to make reparations for colonialism and slavery; $20 trillion for the transition to 100% renewable energy; $10 trillion for wars and weapons industry reduction; $10 trillion for the transition to a steady state economy; $10 trillion for soil restoration and carbon capture; $10 trillion for sustainable transportation; $10 trillion for green living buildings; $10 trillion for guaranteed income, healthcare and education; $10 trillion for zero waste. It makes it sound easy – and the money will be there, if we choose to invest it in our planet’s future, our children’s future.
As Joel says, “Let’s be billionaires of good deeds, billionaires of love, billionaires of meaning and purpose.” If we all share in the effort, we can do this.
In all good bookshops
Joel’s website: www.joelsolomon.org/the-book/