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SRI Firms: Investing in Employees, Investing in the Future

By Janet Stocks (New York City)

The Social Investment Forum, a U.S. national nonprofit dedicated to advancing the practice and growth of socially responsible investing, defines socially responsible investing (SRI) as “an approach to investing that seeks social benefits in conjunction with financial returns.”

“In order to achieve these goals, investors typically utilize one or more of the following approaches:

  • Screening or applying environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) criteria to portfolio constituents;
  • Shareholder advocacy, which may include proxy voting, dialogue with portfolio companies and/or filing of resolutions; or
  • Community investing, in which capital is directed towards individuals, businesses and organizations in underserved communities.”

A 2007 Social Investment Forum study found that “staff recommendations and participant requests can be a determining factor for whether or not SRI options are available” and that there is a “strong correlation between producers of [corporate responsibility reports] and SRI funds appearing in the DC (defined contribution) plans of these firms.”

SRI firms carefully screen portfolio constituents, but how do they treat their own employees? Do they meet the same standards for which they judge others?

Calvert Group

Calvert Group does. In fact, “as a firm, [Calvert] strive[s] to meet the exacting standards [they’ve] set for the companies in which [they] invest. Calvert continually seeks to maintain, enhance, and expand [its] diversity, community outreach, commitment to reducing [its] carbon footprint, and work/life programs and balance.”

Calvert, an investment management company specializing in SRI, “is a company in which employees are valued for both their individual and collaborative contributions.”

Barbara J. Krumsiek, President and CEO of Calvert states, “We strive to create a positive working environment for our employees because we believe that they are the most important component of our success.”

“Our employees’ satisfaction is evidenced by employee retention, generally exceeding 90% annually and our employee tenure, averaging more than eight years of service.”

“We seek candidates who have an entrepreneurial spirit, a desire to make a significant contribution and an ability to bring with them the skills necessary to perform the job.”

Calvert offers its employees an extensive benefits package, an excellent work/life balance, and a multitude of ways to give back to the community. Krumsiek believes that “By maintaining a work/life balance culture, [Calvert] can attract and retain employees in Washington’s very competitive labor market.”

Calvert has “a policy of actively hiring and promoting women and minorities” and “provides its employees with a flexible, benefit-rich, family-friendly work environment to promote a healthy work-life balance.”

For example, “a number of Calvert associates telecommute, work compressed work weeks, job share or are on flex-time.”

Elizabeth Le Vaca, Director of Corporate Communications, told Evolved Employer, “Although we are a financial services company and we very much see ourselves as part of ‘Wall Street,’ we are located in Bethesda, miles away from Wall Street and our corporate philosophy is one of balance.

[Calvert] “attract(s) people that are looking for an interesting, challenging place to work where they know they are guaranteed to be able to have balance in their life.” Calvert actively promotes work/life balance through “telecommuting, flexible work hours, [and] 12 paid days a year for volunteerism.”

Named one of Working Mother magazine’s “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers”, a “Great Place to Work” by Washingtonian magazine, and a “Great Place to Work” Seal of Approval from the Alliance for Workplace Excellence, Calvert Group proves its dedication to employee satisfaction.

Domini Social Investments

Domini, an industry leader in SRI, believes that “By treating employees fairly, by investing in their personal health, safety, skills, and sense of self-worth, as well as by assuring a living wage and comfortable retirement, companies can go beyond their mere contractual relations with employees to create a positive work environment.”

Amy Domini, Founder and CEO of Domini Social Investments said “If you are a responsible person you want to leave a better world for your children. It is pretty hard to see how that can happen without investing in it.”

And Domini certainly invests in its employees. Domini “offers a generous benefits package [and] operate[s] in a casual but professional atmosphere in which interdepartmental collaboration is the standard and new ideas are welcome.”

Pax World Fund

Pax World Fund, an industry leader in SRI, “endeavor[s] to meet high standards of corporate social responsibility and sustainability. [They] strive to be an active member of the community and are committed to developing and maintaining positive relationships with all [their] stakeholders – including [their] employees, business partners, the community and [their] natural environment.”

Through a Corporate Giving Program, ample volunteer opportunities, and a hybrid vehicle incentive program, Pax World rewards its employees for investing in their communities.

When asked what types of employees Pax attracts, Pax World President and CEO, Joe Keefe, told Evolved Employer:

“First, we seem to attract people who want to combine their education, background and skills – be they in the area of finance, sales, technology or what have you – with their desire to make a difference. People are attracted to our mission – to the concept of sustainable investing in particular, and the promotion of sustainable development more generally.  Second, I think people are attracted to our entrepreneurial culture and to our desire to be innovators and leaders. So, we end up hiring employees who likewise display a lot of entrepreneurial and leadership qualities.”

Mr. Keefe believes that Pax’s “mission and the uniqueness of our sustainable investment approach are our greatest recruitment tools.”

Finally, when asked whether a commitment to working towards the “greater good” investment goal helps employees produce higher returns, Mr. Keefe said:

“Yes, we are very definitely a mission-driven organization and I believe that helps drive productivity and performance.  Also, in terms of corporate culture, we are very committed to the notion of teamwork. When we hire people, we are looking for very talented people who are also team players… We try to maintain a flat, non-hierarchical management structure and to work in teams – and we consider ourselves one big team, where everyone’s individual roles are important.  As a result, I think a defining feature of our company is that everyone supports one another, everyone had everyone else’s back, and everyone contributes.  We make each other better because we believe in the mission and we believe in one another.”

Like Calvert and Domini, Pax World engages its employees, fosters an appreciation for working towards the greater good, and exemplifies socially responsible investing.

As an evolved employer, how are you investing in the future?

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