We are celebrating a birthday today. Thirty years ago, Portfolio 21 Investments was founded. Looking back over the past three decades, certainly the growth of social and environmental investing has gone beyond my expectations. I don’t believe any of us who started out in the early 1980s had any idea that the industry would be where it is today.
Back in the late 70s and early 80s, social and environmental investing was just getting started. By 1982, there were about five social and environmental mutual funds to choose from, compared to the hundreds today. Our firm was one of the nation’s first investment managers specializing in the field.
Over the past three decades, the catalyst of growth for the social and environmental investing industry has been centered on specific themes based on current events. In the 1980s, the South Africa divestment movement showed investors worldwide that it is possible to “vote with your dollars” and affect corporate behavior. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil spill was a wake-up call to corporations and investors about environmental liability. Since the 1990s, the environment has been the top issue for investors. Of course, the main catalyst for growth has been competitive financial performance.
At first, environmental issues were applied to the investment process primarily as avoidance screens. Investors were looking to avoid companies with poor environmental performance. In 1998, Portfolio 21 Investments developed one of the first approaches to positive environmental screening. Today we have become best known for our expertise in environmental investing.
I’m very fortunate to have found a vocation with passion starting in 1982 (at an early age). It is a gift to be surrounded by colleagues and clients who care deeply about the environment and demonstrate their concern through their actions. It is a privilege to be celebrating my thirtieth year at Portfolio 21 Investments.
Carsten is Portfolio 21 Investments' founder and Chairman. He has 30 years of experience in socially and environmentally responsible investing.