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August 06, 1999

Book Review: "Investing with Your Values"

A book from leading voices in socially responsible investing gives readers an intimate look at SRI's bright future. -- This new book provides a very personal journey into the world of socially responsible investing. Financial consultants and activists Hall Brill, Jack Brill, author of "Investing from the Heart" and Cliff Feigenbaum, editor of "GreenMoney Journal" bring years of authority and fresh enthusiasm to the interface of investments and values. The authors' central model, The Four Spokes of the Natural Investing Wheel, looks overtly like the steering wheel of a sporty roadster, and this book puts you in the driver seat for an exciting ride.

"Natural Investing" is the authors' addition to the assemblage of names concerning socially responsible, values-based, and/or ethical investing. Their hope is that this more inclusive term for bringing values into financial decisions adds more resolution than confusion. "Investing with Your Values" supports their contention most people want to leave the world a better place, and that one day investing with your values will be considered as natural as investing based purely on financial decisions.

The book begins with a comprehensive history of values-based investing, from its emergence among the early Quakers to its current prominence in the financial world. The authors analyze the convergence of circumstances that have led to the investment of over 1 trillion dollars (U.S.) which use some type of social or environmental criteria.

The Four Spokes of the Natural Investing Wheel make up the conceptual core of "Investing with Your Values" and include avoidance screening, affirmative screening, community investing, and shareholder activism. The authors offer insightful scenarios and arguments to illustrate these venues. Although they occasionally lapse into new-age speak, like referring to the four spokes as if they are the "four directions" of Native American cosmology, the authors provide the reader with a cogent model of alternative investing strategies.

The authors continue to give sound advice on the particular kinds of investments that socially responsible investors can consider, from mutual funds to bonds, or what they call the natural investing universe. They finish with a broad-brush approach to the future of natural investing, what they consider a positive and inevitable trajectory based on current events. Their infectious optimism and practical enthusiasm for the subject brings reality to the vision of a future where values effortlessly interact with the financial world.

"Investing with Your Values" is replete with financial guidance and information. It includes worksheets after certain chapters that help the reader define their values and financial goals, and an impressive array of appendices with addresses and other useful resources. This book will be a socially responsible asset to both novice investors and old hands.

"Investing with Your Values: Making Money and Making a Difference"
by Hall Brill, Jack A. Brill, and Cliff Feigenbaum. Bloomberg Press, 1999.

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