The spiritual transformation of impact investing - highlights from #ebbfjustice ebbf meaningful hangout

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 11.26.36Daryn Dodson and Jenna Nicholas, two of the speakers who will enrich the #ebbfjustice ebbf annual event in Barcelona, offered an online video interaction on the topic of their talks. As we explore how to bring justice also to the area of finance we interacted on the topic of “The spiritual transformation of impact investing“. They bring many years of experience in working with or creating innovative financial impact investment solutions across continents e.g. Phoenix or working for some of the world leaders in this fields such as the Calvert Funds. Below a short summary showing some of the highlights from the online event.

Before opening the floor to a lively interaction, we first heard from Daryn and Jenna how they have seen a number of philanthropic and university foundations, personal wealth, faith-based institutions leading a shift of investment to better align their values with where they put their money.
Divest Invest is the new financial trend which is seeing the values-based individuals in those institutions, influencing the decisions of organizations and communities by divesting from funds and companies involved in carbon fossil fuel, polluting, arms creation and so on and instead investing in green energy or water purification or other similarly positive investments.

Spirituality is interestingly also at the heart of one of the oldest and definitely a pioneer of responsible investing, the Calvert Investments, with its founder Wayne Silby very much inspired by his Buddhist beliefs bringing a framework of justice to the world of investment.

Values-based individuals and organizations are now very actively using their wealth to influence, they are finding ways to make their money create a positive difference even when they are sleeping at night.

Daryn commented how an assignment from Ben&Jerry had him recently visit the West Bank seeing how a 100 person factory in Tel Aviv had many of its materials sourced in northern occupied territories and there he witnessed first hand about the conflict in the region. He also saw how business still goes on in these conflict areas and how people choose to bring values into the workplace by investing in companies on the other side of the border. He was specially struck, after seeing so many divisions and strife, when he ended up in Haifa and there he saw an incredible symbol of unity in the Baha’i Shrines and gardens there.

what is spiritual capital?

The interaction during the call then touched different forms of capital, human, financial and – spiritual capital – so we explored what that term meant. “I think it is bringing one’s full self to one’s work, sadly many people working in finance see their day job as one thing and then their volunteer or values-based activity restricted to outside work activities or to a Sunday; but the depth of one’s being or values do not show up fully where they work.” said Jenna.

Daryn added “I see spiritual capital as assets people have internally and that they bring into organizations and into the consultation and into their decision making”

who is pushing this new trend of divest / invest and of moving towards financing in a more responsible way?

We mentioned earlier faith-institutions and other values-based organizations but we also notice, and a recent WEF study highlighted this, how the most talented younger generations are not content with just…

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… having a job they need their work to do more, to have a significant influence and a positive one. So also in the world of finance we are seeing a new generation that is using their innovation, talents and drive to create new, more positive, financial solutions.Daryn mentioned how a Martin Luther King quote influenced him I come out of enternity into time” so that when the Katrina hurricane tragedy happened in New Orleans and the injustice of the system and of the relief operation became evident, he from his master at Stanford, first highlighted the essence of Stanford of it’s owners values, with those well clear in his and his student colleagues minds and hearts  decided to set up an active response to practically “step into time” and correct the injustice there.

This is the kind of correction to injustice, wish to get into action quickly and make things right that is growing amongst younger generations and making the change faster.

What key questions should people who wish to invest more responsibly ask?

We then went into practical question on how we ourselves could embark in this more responsible way of choosing our investments and how to have our own personal finances work to create a positive impact.

The key good questions to start from are self reflection ones that start from asking oneself what is important to me, what values, what areas of society do I wish to influence. Being clear about the length of time you have available to keep your amount invested. Creating a balance of risk with on one hand of the spectrum opting for more secure long term funds and on the other extreme deciding to invest directly on great and good start ups as a social venture capitalist.

Attending some of the big responsible investment events (our own ebbf friend Robert Rubinstein’s TBLI events or the SOCAP global event are two of many examples) is where one can familiarise oneself on the key questions, possibilities and innovative responsible trends.

Investing along or as a community or group?

In this area we also mentioned how increasingly – investor circles – are being created. Instead of investing as individuals, investors look for other like-minded investors sharing similar values and objectives for their investments and as a group can have a higher cumulative financial impact, can support each other in the decision making and can make better and more informed decisions.

How did the financial crisis of 2008 affect the world of investment?

Apart from highlighting the obvious risks of focusing on short term profits and showing how totally unacceptable and the dire consequences of speculating on basic needs of a human being such as their home it also created an interesting side effect. Right now the most talented university and MBA graduates no longer see Wall Street as their number 1 option but instead are exploring new ways to be involved in the world of finance. And this is creating some very exciting new ways to see and to make finance happen.

You have been pioneers in bringing impact investment into China, what did you find is the perception there?

Well the good and bad news is that for example many Chinese cities have such a visible and immediate issue with pollution that we found a very ready and keen sense of the importance of impact investing, of investing in the kinds of companies and solutions that brought about a more sustainable environment.

So it was one of the most receptive green investment communities we have found around the world.

What would be your closing suggestion to help us move towards more just financial investments?

Jenna “that fact that we are asking these questions about how to engage with companies to make sure the vision is not only maximising profits but also values is the best starting point. There is such power in having communities and events such as these we are having at ebbf, explore daily reflections around these kinds of aspects in work, specially if we live by the most elevated way to see work: “work is worship”

Daryn “I try to create action but also moments of reflection, I have a journal and every day I write three bullet points there on how spirituality shows up in my work as a life experiment and to see if I am more connected to certain values and aspects than others”


You can join the next online ebbf meaningful hangout in the run up – check out the ebbf events page for next Wednesday’s link.

Or join us in Barcelona at the ebbf annual event to interact with Jenna, Daryn and another 30 sessions there offering an exploration of how to create more just workplaces and organizations.

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comments (1)

  • Great hangout today. I have been exploring spiritual investing on the human capital side of the equation inside our our hotel and development company with good success over the last 27 years. Socially washing external investments is catching on up here in British Columbia with the Tides Organization and their Social Ventures Institute which I attended last year. It is encouraging to see Calvert Funds through the efforts of Daryn and his team are making headway. One of the big take aways from our hangout yesterday was Jenna’s comment about bringing the whole person into the work place. Without openly addressing the spiritual component of the workplace what are you really working with every day? Great discussion. Thank you EBBF.

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