Voting With Our Dollars and Investing in Change
“Today we have more choices and more opportunity to make our voices heard than ever before,” says Audrey Choi, head of Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing. And collectively, we have the power to change the way companies and other institutions approach environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. Finance, she says, “can be one of the most powerful forces for positive social change at our disposal – if we ask it to be.”
Choi points out during a recent TED Talk that nearly a third of the capital markets is owned by individuals, with the rest held by the institutions which derive their authority, power and capital from individuals as beneficiaries, members and stakeholders. This adds up to extraordinary power in the hands of each and every person to create change.
“We have the power to make sustainable investing the new normal,” says Choi.
Defying the Odds
Choi draws her inspiration from her own family history. Defying all odds, her mother eluded occupying armies, repressive regimes and cultural biases to escape North Korea as a young girl, and ultimately emigrated to the US, where she raised two daughters and sent both to Harvard. Rather than running from large institutions, Choi’s career has been spent actively seeking change via major organizations: The Wall Street Journal, The White House, and today by leading sustainable investing at Morgan Stanley.
She asks why many people are comfortable advocating for change through their individual every-day decisions, such as choosing fair-trade coffee, but not when it comes to investment. “Why aren’t we voting with our investment dollars the way we vote with our lattes?” she asks.
Choi calls out the fable that many of us carry in our heads that if you care about environmental or social issues when you invest, you probably aren’t going to make as much money. To bust those myths, she cites studies showing that investing in companies with strong sustainability strategies can result in the same if not better returns than investing in those that don’t.
“So change your mind, vote with your small change, invest in the change you want to see in the world, and change the markets,” she says.
For more information, please visit the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing webpage.
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