Originally published in Slow Money State of the Sector Report (2014)
I worked in finance for about 20 years, the last 6 managing investment portfolios for institutional investors. As fiduciaries we were tasked with preserving and growing the capital of our clients. Our fiduciary duties were discharged by delivering financial returns with moderate risk by investing in our area of expertise.
Many of our clients were foundations and no one seemed concerned that some of the investments we were making on their behalf caused or worsened the very social and environmental problems those foundations were created to address. A case in point was one of our best performing stocks, a Malaysian palm oil company that had destroyed tens of thousands of acres of original rain forest and replaced it with a monoculture of palm oil plants. Such operation destroyed the Borneo habitat of the Orangutan, yet a few of our clients were environmental foundations trying to protect such habitat with their grants!