This post is not sponsored or affiliated in any way. I just want to share companies I find who may help us make more sustainable, ethical investing choices that benefit everyone, including our planet.
It can be very difficult for small, budding investors to find ethical ways to make their money grow. Index funds mostly take a big chunk out of a country (or the world’s) industry after all, and if they don’t exclude companies that deal in petroleum, guns or treating their employers poorly – well, you might be out of luck if that bothers you.
I am in no position to look down on others. I am investing in index funds myself. But I do try to look for ethical alternatives wherever I can find them. For me, that means about 1/3 of my tiny portfolio is currently in actively managed environmental funds. But there are some who would ask just how environmentally friendly those funds are.
Still. We do what we can. And I imagine buying environmental funds, even actively managed ones, will send a signal to those who manage funds that there are a market for them, and more and better ones will come if we show them it is a priority. Consumer power is a thing.
In this post, which I hope will eventually turn into a series, I hope to present ethical and environmental alternatives to investing for those of us who don’t have a million dollar portfolio to throw around (but if you do, feel free to be inspired…). Businesses I’ve found that, while they probably should not be your entire portfolio, could still be a part of a diverse investment strategy focusing on the triple bottom line (societal responsibility, environmental impact and economic value).
It feel redundant to say this but: I am a random blogger on the internet, not an investment adviser. As such, please do not blindly trust everything I say. As with any investment, you could loose all your money.
With that, let me present to you; Trine.
Trine is a small Swedish startup who deal with crowdfunded solar loans. You tell them how much you wish to lend per month, along with other details such as what minimum interest you want for the loan, what sort of risk level you wish to stick to and how long you are willing to let the loan run for.
Based on the information you provide, the team then matches you up with a suitable project asking for funding. If a suitable project cannot be found, the money will stay in your account until a suitable project appears (so it might not be a good idea to put the sliders on the highest interest and shortest repayment plan).
With your help and the help of hundreds of other investors, you are helping Trine fund companies who are providing solar energy to rural communities all over the world. Many of which have not had electricity until now. As such, you are not only making an investment, but reducing dependency on coal and aiding the solar revolution. Pretty awesome, right?
Trine similarly to the bigger micro lending platform Kiva. But where Kiva allows anyone to ask for a loan for a great many different things, Trine focuses exclusively on solar. And where Kiva has a more manual process where you find and support the projects on a one to one basis, Trine has a “set it and forget it” default that will appeal to anyone embracing automation of their finances. You can also manually select projects if that is more your style, but I really like having the option to automate.
I have presented some of the benefits of Trine (environmental impact, societal responsibility, crowdfunding, etc), so let us consider some of the prospective downsides.
Since you are actually lending your money to an actual project, you cannot just pull the money out like you could pull your money out of an index fund if you needed it. These are loans with several years repayment plans, and as such, this is not where you stash your emergency fund or money you might need in a jiffy.
Keep Trine for a small percentage of investment “fun money” instead. a few percent of your portfolio at most, and money you will not need or miss in your day to day life. Perhaps you consider it as part of your sustainability plan? Obviously I’ll leave that up to you, but just be aware that you might not see a return on your investment for a long while.
That being said, the guy who recommended Trine to me claimed he had been seeing 8% return on many of his investments. So the carrot is there if you have the disposable income and want to spend it on something that will make this world a better place as well as grow you some money.
Here is an example of the type of project Trine funds. As you can see from the thorough and transparent description, you get more return for your money the more capital you are willing to invest. Still, rates are far better than anything banks are offering these days, so why not join me and give them a go?
Do you have any suggestions for companies or projects that might fit the bill of ethical investing, but is also available to the small-scale investor? Please let me know and maybe I’ll write about them next!