The first Earth Day and the ABCs of a greener bottom line

The other day I was talking to my 7-year-old son, Finn, about some of my favorite books when I was a child.

Foremost in my memory were the stories titled "We were there." This is a collection of 36 books in which the characters are children who go back in time to experience an event in history. Everything from "We were there on the Oregon Trail" to "We were there with Lincoln at the White House."

This conversation made me consider writing my own version of a "We were there" story. My story begins in San Francisco in 1970 at the first Earth Day rally. That day didn’t actually ingrain too many memories, but the following year brought an event that steered me towards my career in sustainable activism and, eventually, socially responsible investing. It started when two Standard Oil tankers crashed in the San Francisco Bay on Jan. 19, 1971. It wasn’t just the size of the spill that affected me -- it was almost literally in my back yard. I remember skipping high school cross-country practice to go help clean oil off birds. It was in that moment that I became an environmental activist. 

Over the years my activism has taken different forms -- from making it a priority to take mass transit to starting a food co-op to now being the president of an investment firm that specializes in socially responsible investing. As I leap from my own version of "We Were There at Earth Day 1970" to "We Are Here at Earth Day 2013," I hope to share the lessons I have learned from both an activist’s and an investor’s point of view.

Keeping it simple, as Finn likely will be reading this, here are the ABCs of keeping green on the bottom line.

A is for avoidance

It costs a lot to clean up a mess. We are all better off if companies don’t do it in the first place. The evidence is pretty compelling, as study after study has shown a correlation between environmental consciousness and financial performance. My business partner and I always make it a point to examine a company’s policies and actions before making any investment.

Next page: Correlating environmental and financial performance