Aligning your money with your values requires vigilance. As individuals like you engage in solidarity instead of charity, a healthier economy will emerge.
Impact investing uses money to precipitate positive social change through assessment of the social and environmental improvements being enabled. “Money-Wise Women” guest Morgan Simon is an investment advisor and founder of the Candide Group. Her book, Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change, describes how to bridge finance and social justice. This is a well-researched and thoughtful analysis of the limitations and opportunities of impact investing. She also initiated the campaign Real Money Moves, which encourages influencers, celebrities, and athletes to keep their money from financing private prisons, putting pressure on financial institutions to do the same.
In 2003, Morgan was a 20-year-old economics student. She was working with a UN aid organization in Sierra Leone, which had endured civil war for a decade. She lived in rural areas where most people ate one meal a day because of limited food and fuel. One day, a shiny object in a street vendor’s cart caught Morgan’s eye. It was a can of tuna stamped with “World Food Programme: Not for Sale; Gift from the Government of Japan.” With the $1 that Morgan paid for the tuna, the woman could buy six heaping plates of traditional food, rice, fish and greens with that dollar. Understandably, she received the free aid and sold it to receive its maximum nutritional benefit to her family. Resources are wasted through ineffective global aid organizations.
After this exchange, Morgan shifted her career trajectory toward provoking positive social change through impact investing. She says, “We need solidarity instead of charity. Charity’s underlying belief is often that others are less than me and I feel an obligation to help them. Solidarity is treating everyone like they’re family.”
A healthy family contributes to the well-being of all members. Similarly, impact investing goes beyond socially responsible investing, which avoids negative stocks from maleficent corporations supporting things like fossil fuels, private prisons, or child labor. $1 out of every $4 under institutional management has some kind of social or environmental screen. Impact investors go beyond screening against the bad; they want their money to produce positive change in: affordable housing, refugees, clean energy, and women and people of color-owned business. For example, Candide Group invests in Komaza (a sustainable African forestry enterprise), Traditional Medicinals (a tea company), and Namaste Solar (an energy cooperative.)
Morgan also knows the importance of funding worker-owned cooperatives. Transform Finance released a paper in July 2019, “Investing in Employee Ownership: A Fund-Level Model for Financing Conversions.” Worker-owned coops are one of the most effective ways to cultivate financial equity for marginalized communities. Participants in cooperatives find their mindset and confidence improving. They are able to shape their future together, instead of feeling like passive consumers or victims of the extractive economy.
“We are engaging communities in the design, governance, and ownership of enterprises; treating people not as consumers or recipients, but protagonists of their own futures.”
People like Morgan are transforming the financial systems to improve the well-being of people and planet. As we disengage from extractive organizations and encourage healthy circulation of resources, we will liberate the immense power of positive economic activity.
Morgan Simon is an investment advisor and founder of the Candide Group. She has close to two decades of experience making finance a tool for social justice. In that time, she has influenced over $150B and is a regularly sought expert on impact investing. Her book, Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change, has been featured internationally, from Harvard Business School to the United Nations. She is a regular voice in media, an active investor as founding partner of Candide Group, and a registered investment advisor.