Green industry, corporate social responsibility, environmental impact assessments, and corporate governance are terms gaining popularity and common understanding in the global marketplace. As we continue to gain awareness about the social and environmental impacts of the corporations we rely on, demands for higher standards also rise. It is no longer just environmentalists and affected communities calling for such changes, but the everyday consumer interested in reducing his or her own ecological imprint that are also requiring improved (environmental and social) corporate practices in exchange for their consumer loyalty.

One such example is an increase in awareness about socially responsible investing and the role that each of us can play in holding corporations to higher environmental and social practices, through the power of our own pockets. However, in a recent class on socially responsible investing, only one out of about 30 students who claimed to currently hold financial investments indicated that their investments had been geared towards socially responsible companies.

As we begin to ask corporations difficult questions about their willingness to make social and environmentally responsible decisions that may affect their bottom line, we must also ask ourselves, how far are we willing to go in our own lives to ensure that we contribute to a more environmental and socially responsible world?

Below is an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune with tips for how you can better align your investments with your moral or cultural values.

Lacing investing with social responsibility

BY JUDITH SEID, NOVEMBER 27, 2010

As a public service to residents, the Financial Planning Association of San Diego is answering financial questions for readers of The San Diego Union-Tribune. Today’s question — on socially responsible investing — is answered by Judith Seid, CFP, at Blue Summit Wealth Management in La Mesa.

Q: My mother, who smoked for some time, recently lost a long battle with lung cancer. A few months after, my husband pointed out to me that one of our largest mutual-fund investments own tobacco stocks. Given our family experiences, and the messages that we want to send to our children, how can we better align my investments with my values?

A: You are not alone in wanting to align your investment goals with your own moral and ethical values — a good percentage of the American population is seeking ways to do just that. In fact recent studies show that one out of every $8 are invested in some sort of socially responsible investing, or SRI strategy. There are a number of ways that you can research and invest in companies, industries or investment products that hold themselves to their own set of socially responsible standards.

Here are some ways you can get started:

Take stock of your current portfolio: Many people have no idea what securities they actually own inside their mutual funds, 401k’s, IRA accounts, etc. So the first thing you can do is find out what stocks and bonds are held inside your portfolio There are a few ways you can do this on your own:

• Go online using the ticker symbols for each fund you own and look at the list of underlying holdings.

• Contact the fund company and ask for a list of holdings in the portfolio.

• Read the annual report which will list all holdings at the time of the report, and/or visitcalvert.com to see if it includes your fund in it’s “Know What You Own” interactive tool, which runs the funds’ stocks holding through an SRI screening criteria.

Research the companies in your portfolio:

• Visit its website. Most companies now have a corporate sustainability officer, a shareholder relations department and/or a portion of their website devoted to what the company is doing regarding environmental and social responsibility and corporate governance.

• Read the annual shareholder report. Oftentimes, you can find out information on CEO compensation, community relations, environmental stewardship and company philosophy regarding a variety of financial and nonfinancial issues.

• Subscribe to new services, such ascsrwire.com, that report on corporate social responsibility, or CSR issues.

• Read publications. Keep you eyes and ears open in the newspapers and magazines for articles pertaining to the companies you own. This way you can be engaged with what your money is supporting.

Find out the criteria your fund uses: Find out if your mutual funds or money managers use any socially responsible investing criteria to screen companies on issues such as environmental impact, human rights, diversity, tobacco, weapons, etc. This will be detailed in the mutual fund prospectus. You can also call and ask.

Determine what issues are important to you: Consider what types of companies you would prefer to be invested in and what types of companies you want to make sure you are not invested in. Are there any issues in addition to tobacco that are important to you? Then you can start to tailor your portfolio to fit your individual concerns.

Consult an SRI professional: Nationwide, there are a host of advisers and investment professionals who seek out socially responsible funds and other investment vehicles for their clients. If you already work with a financial adviser, ask him/her about your current holdings and how they align with your values. If you are seeking an adviser in the SRI space, you can find one at the Social Investment Forum website, socialinvest.org, which lists advisers and planners by state, or the “Green Pages” for the nonprofit national advocacy group Green America, at greenamerica.org.

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Google Creative Commons By: djipibi

The Canadian government recently opened an office of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in order to help their mining and extractive industries achieve their CSR responsibilities. Canadian mining companies have come under considerable scrutiny lately. One report, which received much attention in the global media, labeled Canadian firms among the worst in the world for their negative environmental impact and poor community relations.

As European governments continue to divest in Canadian mining firms, some argue the Canadian government ought to have stricter regulations in place to prevent negative social and environmental impacts. Historical evidence supports claims of mismanagement and shows a pattern of neglecting environmental and social impact. Activists and leaders from some of the communities where Canadian mining firms are conducting business have complained about the effects of mining on their health and contamination of the surrounding natural resources and environment, including local water supplies. Those representing the industry argue that NGO reports on firm activities are biased and exaggerate the negative impacts of their activities.

We do not have sufficient information to determine whether NGO reports on the Canadian mining industry are indeed exaggerated. However, a combination of the Canadian mining industry’s zeal to mine areas in developing countries of potential great wealth, the desire by developing nations to foster foreign direct investment in their countries, and current international and domestic laws and regulations are not sufficient to mitigate the vast negative environmental and social impacts that pervade the extractive industries.

Cambodia to sign cooperation deal with Iran on oil

By: Reuters, August 6, 2010

Officials from Cambodia are to travel to Iran next week and the two countries will sign agreements covering cooperation in the oil sector, the foreign minister of the Southeast Asian state said on Friday.

‘Trafficked’ woman returns home

By: Phnom Penh Post, August 6, 2010

AN 18-year-old ethnic Tampuon woman from Ratanakkiri province returned home last week after neighbours allegedly took her to the capital for job training without her family’s permission. However, the woman, Leith Dauth, said yesterday that she had volunteered to go to Phnom Penh, and only decided to return to Ratanakkiri after learning that her parents disapproved of her plan to go work in Malaysia.

Photo by: Janos Kis

City police seize motorbikes

By: Tang Khyhay and Cameron Wells in Phnom Penh Post, August 3, 2010

TRAFFIC police in the capital have resumed seizing the motorbikes of helmetless drivers and those who lack side mirrors, despite the fact that the Land Traffic Law does not list vehicle confiscation as a possible punishment for such offences.

Cambodia reports 88 lightning deaths

By: TMC, August 5, 2010

Cambodian government said Thursday that 88 people, mostly in rural areas — have died of lightning strikes. Keo Vy, communication officer of National Committee of Disaster Management said that by the end of July, there were 88 people have died in lightning strikes. However, he said, the figure is still less than that in the same period last year as 110 died of lightning incidents.

Forestry, fisheries crimes lost in red tape: minister

By: Khouth Sophakchakrya in Phnom Penh Post, August 3, 2010

AGRICULTURE Minister Chan Sarun has accused courts of dragging their feet on forestry, agriculture and fisheries crimes, claiming 70 percent nationwide have not been to trial. In remarks delivered to Forestry Administration workers in Phnom Penh, a copy of which was obtained yesterday, Chan Sarun attributed the backlog to “a lack of cooperation”.

Jailed journalist reports graft

By: Chhay Channyda in Phnom Penh Post, August 3, 2010

A JAILED journalist whose Appeal Court hearing is scheduled for later this month said yesterday that he had been asked to pay US$1,000 before court officials would tell him the exact date.

Cambodia’s Struggle With Globalization

By:  Hal Hill, Jayant Menon & Chan Sopha in The Jakarta Globe, August 2, 2010

The charming riverside capital of Phnom Penh, home to about 1.5 million inhabitants, has seen a lot in its turbulent history. But arguably nothing is on the scale of its first skyscraper, the 42-floor Gold Tower now nearing completion, not to mention the university and bank complexes mushrooming throughout this ancient city.

Dam projects threaten giants of the Mekong: Conservationists

By: Ian MacKinnon, The Daily Telegraph, July 28, 2010

The survival of some of the world’s largest freshwater fish, including a giant catfish, is threatened by a series of hydroelectric dams planned for the Mekong River, a leading environmental group has warned. The construction of a particular dam in northern Laos would disrupt the migration of four of the world’s 10 largest freshwater species to crucial spawning grounds, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said.

Ask Cambodian Workers: What Good Has ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ Done?

By: Jeff Ballinger, In These Times, July 26, 2010

Tens of thousands of workers in Cambodia and Bangladesh have protested numerous times over the last ten weeks, due to expected national minimum wage adjustments (which are behind schedule); their wages are never raised through the dignified means of collective bargaining. Look back to 1998 when a prominent FLA member (Patagonia’s Kevin Sweeney) wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “We Can Work Up To a Living Wage.” So, what’s happened over the past dozen years?

From the Killing Fields, on a Mission of Truth

By: Stephen Holden, New York Times, July 29, 2010

“Enemies of the People” is another disquieting testament to the fact that ordinary individuals under extreme pressure will carry out the most monstrous crimes. If they hadn’t followed the orders of superiors, they say, they themselves would have been killed. One farmer, a Buddhist who believes in reincarnation, expresses his tormented certainty that it will be many lifetimes before he returns in human form.

CNN Hero Aki Ra Disarms Land Mines In Cambodia He Placed Decades Earlier

By: Huffington Post, July 30, 2010

Aki Ra, leader of the nonprofit Cambodian Self Help Demining team, works to make his country more safe by clearing land mines on a daily basis. He estimates that he and his team have cleared more than 50,000 land mines — some of which he planted himself.

Cocktails with Khmer Rouge killers

By: Angus MacSwan, Reuters, July 30, 2010

The sentencing of Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav this week and the forthcoming trial of former leader Khieu Samphan by a United Nations-backed court has brought renewed attention to their murderous rule of Cambodia in the 1970s — and a certain amount of satisfaction in the “international community” for its role in seeing justice done.

Claro! Nokia! Uriburu

Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist recently posted a piece on why we overestimate the gap between the gap between nonprofit and for-profit jobs.  It’s a short and interesting read if you’re considering the pros and cons of working in one of these sectors.

In this post, Penelope talks about how both nonprofit and for-profit workplaces are changing and why our age-old typical stereotypes no longer hold true.  Not only are these sectors getting more creative about how to structure themselves internally and “how they give back” externally, their financial structures may be one of the only significant remaining differences between the two. Dan Pallotta, who writes regularly for Harvardbusiness.org, gives similar arguments while dispelling myths about the private sector in a recent piece on how the “Psychic Benefits of Nonprofit Work are Overrated”.

Personally I’ve found the establishment of an entire field around corporate social responsibility (CSR) as one example of the sensible meeting of the for- and nonprofit sector minds. But even that is an oversimplification of the existence of and potential for building bridges between sectors to accomplish positive change in the local communities where they operate to the global world within which they exist.

As a graduate student evaluating the pros and cons of each sector, and the goal of affecting positive local and global change, I find the shifting trends within these sectors as an encouraging and exciting affirmation that nonprofit and for-profit companies alike continue to have to adapt in order to compete in the evolving world.  It’s also a good reminder that it is more about what you want to accomplish, the specific workplace(s) you work at or seek to work with, and perhaps most importantly the individuals you work with that matter the most.

A recent panel I attended discussing work in the field of International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution (INCR), another field that crosses the nonprofit, public, and private sectors, confirmed just that. As one panelist put it, “It really does matter who you work with; you spend a lot of time with them!”

And if you’re looking to shift sectors, or like me, hoping to shift in and out of sectors throughout your career, the continued blurring and overlapping of the various sectors, public, private, nonprofit, for-profit, international, and domestic workplaces signifies an even more essential development: We may not have to choose!