Options for investing in sustainability and the clean tech economy

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While working in the green economy is an option for many people nowadays, there are many folks who, for one reason or another, do not, but would still like to support the growth of sustainability and clean tech. Good news–there are many ways that you can invest your money to help make a better world…and get a return on investment to boot.

Disclaimer: we are not investment advisors…this article is for entertainment purposes only. Seriously, our lawyers make us say stuff like this. 

The field of impact investing has revolutionized the concept of investing for more than just profits. There are good trends. Private sector investment in green technology and other eco-friendly businesses is booming. So…you’re not alone, and the growth in these markets means that more money will continue to flow in, and, as the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all ships.

If you’re interested in long term investment with traditional investment vehicles like Individual Retirement Accounts, there are investment advisors who focus on socially responsible investments (SRI). Through SRI, you can provide filters for your advisor (i.e., you can say, “Don’t invest in petrochemicals”). SRI advisors also use proxy votes to help pressure publicly traded companies to further their corporate social responsibility efforts. Here’s a cool video of an SRI advisor talking about regenerative capitalism. SRI is quite different than impact investing. Think of it more like avoiding certain things (tobacco, military contractors, and guns are all common “screens”) and gently pressuring giant corporations, rather than putting money into the hands of small, innovative, potentially game-changing companies and technologies.

If you are more of a do-it-yourselfer and have a daytrading account, you might want to follow some green stocks. These may include everything from energy services companies that help other companies and municipalities cut energy use to efficient HVAC companies to biofuels companies and wind turbine manufacturers. The good folks at Sustainable Business have been following sustainable stocks for a while and you can follow their research and stock picks.

If you like to get right down into it, you can also invest directly in smaller companies. If you’re serious and make good money, you might want to join a network of angel investors who specifically look at green companies. Check out Investors Circle, for instance. Joining a group of like minded and savvy professionals like this might be a great bet to help guide you through the murky and choppy waters you’re dipping your toes into.

The Green Investment Network aims to connect entrepreneurs working in sustainability with investors looking to fund them. The site claims to have $166 billion available for entrepreneurs with great ideas. There are, of course, all sorts of rules for investors…like I said in the disclaimer above, we are not investment advisors and don’t claim to know the rules and won’t even try, but we will say there are rules, and you should fully understand them all before getting going with this kind of thing.

Finding great stuff to put your money towards through crowdfunding is also possible, but at the moment, there is no possibility to “invest” in these companies through crowdfunding.  That is potentially coming, so keep your eye open for that.

You can always, of course, invest directly into your own home by adding solar panels, insulation, wind turbines, raised garden beds…you get the idea. Why not improve the value of your home and produce clean energy and food at the same time?

One last potential avenue that has huge potential impact is investing with local solar installers to help defray upfront costs of solar installations. Solar companies get many inquiries in which the company inquiring about doing solar doesn’t have the upfront investment needed to buy the solar system. The investor in this case helps provide that upfront money, which gets paid back through the savings that the company installing the solar will enjoy on their electricity bills over time. Contact local solar installation companies to see if there are opportunities available in your area, and you may also find that solar companies in other places need upfront capital investments to finish a deal as well.

Whatever you do, remember that while you may have been fully entertained by this entertainment-only article, we still wish to thank you for doing what you do to put your money to good use.

Photo courtesy of shutterstock


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