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Invest Green
Jamais Cascio, 22 Nov 05

If you think that climate disruption and our resulting global response will be the big story of the 21st century, you have to figure that investment markets will eventually start to pick up on who the winners and losers in such a world might be. And if the market as a whole is on the trail of clean, green companies, then the maxim of "buy low, sell high" suggests that savvy long-term investors will want to get there first. Today's Wired News has what will undoubtedly be one of many articles about how to scope out the investment market in a global warming world. It's a good start.

The article doesn't try to define any winners and losers just yet, but does spell out some steps that those of us thinking about how climate disruption will shape markets should keep in mind. Interestingly, these also make for good rules for catching early indicators of which political figures and non-market organizations are best-positioned to become leaders in the years and decades to come.

Wired's rules, paraphrased, are:

  • Know the science -- understanding the science of environmental change puts you in a better position to see who's working hard and who's just greenwashing;
  • Know who's transparent about risks -- just because a company isn't admitting to risks doesn't mean that they aren't there. Companies willing to acknowledge the ways in which global warming puts them at risk are more likely to be working for real change;
  • Know who's already investing in environmental responsibility -- you won't be the only one ahead of the game, and it's good to pay attention to who else is paying attention;
  • Know who's already working to reduce their greenhouse gas footprint -- being the "first mover" isn't always an advantage, but it's a wise strategy in a scenario where the risks are great and the likelihood of those risks appearing is even greater;
  • Know what trade-offs you're willing to make -- nobody's perfect, and (as is so often true) the best can be the enemy of the good. Waiting for the perfect environmental champion to come along will mean missing out on some good investments in companies that learn from their mistakes.

    The Wired piece notes something in passing that I think is worth drawing attention to: most "socially-responsible" investment funds don't look specifically at global warming issues. And while alternative energy-specific funds are out there, there doesn't appear to be anything akin to a "bright green" mutual fund available, combining alternative energy companies, groups pushing efficiency, and firms that are taking steps to reduce their own greenhouse footprints ahead of the rest. Do any of you know of anyone assembling an investment package like this?

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    And just yesterday Goldman Sachs announced they would "establish a Center for Environmental Markets to study how the free-market system can solve environmental problems." They have also made a commitment to increase thier involvement with carbon trading and commit their equity research department to work on environmental studies.

    Posted by: Pablo on 22 Nov 05

    As a response to Jamais Cascio's post: 'most "socially-responsible" investment funds don't look specifically at global warming issues,' the new KLD index ( focus specifically on climate and the companies that are responding.

    No it is not "bright green"--to wit BP, GE, and Shell mixed in with the Evergreen Solars, Kyoceras, and SunWays of the world--but it does try to addres "combining alternative energy companies, groups pushing efficiency, and firms that are taking steps to reduce their own greenhouse footprints ahead of the rest."

    We threw in the big ones because it's hard to attract large scale investment with only pure plays. And like it or not, GE, BP, and Shell, bring the market power necessary to take alt techs mainstream.

    Here are some brighter green fund ideas.

    WilderHill Clean Energy Index
    New Energy Finance's Global Energy Innovation Index (GEIX)
    Impax ET50 Index

    Posted by: Andrew Brengle on 23 Nov 05

    Portfolio 21 is a global mutual fund committed to investing in a sustainable future. Companies using sustainability principles as a core part of their business strategies are positioned to prosper in the future and can be more efficient and profitable today. Portfolio 21 concentrates on companies that have made a commitment to environmental sustainability and have demonstrated this commitment through their business strategies, practices and investments. Companies are beginning to understand the competitive advantage of sustainability. You might enjoy taking a look at the list of companies in the fund which can be found at

    Posted by: Carsten Henningsen on 23 Nov 05

    My main problem with investing in green shares is that it's difficult to know whether it's really possible for a large number of these companies to make money in the near future.
    How much investment in green companies is actually a very long term bet?
    The difference is important because markets don't work long-term, government regulation is required (e.g. Kyoto and successors) and this we know is difficult to predict!
    Any thoughts?

    Posted by: John Kazer on 25 Nov 05



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