Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Fantasy Social Finance Portfolio

My last post defined Social Finance: companies making money in an ethical manner which treat the environment and its employees well, while producing something that adds value to people's and communities' lives. Not many companies can make that standard. For example, if the money making piece isn't there, nothing else really is sustainable. Or if their end product is bottled water and junk drinks, even though ClimateCounts gives it a high mark, they're not there.
I have been thinking about it further - suppose I could design a Social Finance Mutual Fund of great companies? The fantasy part of this is that a lot of these companies aren't yet making money nor are they publicly held. Here are a bunch - I've got my fingers crossed that these sorts of enterprises will thrive. Please add your nominees!

1) RecycleBank, a for-profit start up in my home territory, Philadelphia. They have incentivized recycling by providing each household with a large bin with a chip to measure their recycling's volume. Households are paid in coupons to local businesses according to the amount they recycle. RecycleBank is expanding, and the compliance rates have soared.

2) GreenDimes, likewise a for-profit, which specialized in helping people lighten their junkmail. This seems like a huge growth industry! (they're linked on my resources.)

3) BogoLight and SolarCookers International, two great products which transform life for third world families. The BogoLight is a buy-one-give-one solar flashlight program. SolarCookers has a similar idea, though it's a non-profit which distributes solar cookers internationally. It saves families from foraging for wood, as well as being free to operate, so it's economically and environmentally wonderful. If these guys got together are were capitalized, perhaps they could sell enough solar products to offer them for cheap to imporverished families, kind of like the drug world discounts AIDS medicines. Fantasy, like I said.

4) Ebay/Craigslist, which empowers people to sell, and therefore reuse, all kinds of stuff. Ebay is, of course, a public company. And, full disclosure - I own stock in Ebay already.

5) Co-Housing, a great development concept which builds cluster villages for people who live in intentional communities. I'd love to see this concept overtake DellWebb! People are hungry for living in a way where they know and share with their neighbors, I am convinced.

6) MarketPlace, which creates beautiful handmade clothing in a collective in India. By cutting out the middle-man, they can create lovely clothing while supporting themselves and their families.

7) PhillyCarShare and other car sharing companies, which together could transform driving. By supplying energy-efficient and right-sized cars, we could all get by with fewer autos, and perhaps eventually they can move into convenient ride-sharing, too. These companies are expanding, but I don't know if they're yet profitable. This way you don't buy the largest car you'll generally need, but rather the smallest you can get by with, and FlexCar the biggie when you need it.

8) Microfinance Banks which eventually will provide loans to worthy low-income recipients as a business, not just as charity. It's very difficult to do this now, though through my links you can read about the EqualExchange CD's already available.

I'm only listing 8 here, because I want you, the readers out there, to add the rest. Dream with me~


Raines said...

I'm glad you like cohousing! With nearly 100 cohousing neighborhoods built nationwide and more than 100 under development, the movement is hardly a competitor for large-scale developers, but we are already seeing it change how they operate, building greener, more efficient, more human-scale, pedestrian-oriented, and more-sustainable neighborhoods.

For those interested in investing, there are some informal friends-and-family investment opportunities -- I used proceeds from selling a condo in one community to help people create another affordable one -- but all the ones so far are small-scale, non-advertised, with investor participation in oversight to keep them in a safe harbor exempt from securities regulations. I'm looking forward to scaling up to incorporate microlending into the process, as well as getting more developers educated so it can become easier to create communities and make them accessible for all.

Raines Cohen, Cohousing Coach
Planning for Sustainable Communities
Berkeley, CA

Unknown said...

I'll add Guayaki, an organic, rainforest grown, fairly traded yerba mate company out of the Bay Area. The company is fueled by Solar Power and biodiesel. Their business model is market driven restoration, which allows them to reforest areas of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, and engage indigenous people in sustainable agriculture - to grow their mate - while employing a living wage.

Yerba mate is a healthy beverage. In fact, their website says, "The leaves of the rainforest mate tree naturally contain 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, abundant antioxidants. In fact, The Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific society in 1964 concluded "it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value" and that yerba mate contains "practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.""

Betsy Teutsch said...

A reader recommended Paper Bag Players, an event ticketing company, but I accidentally deleted it. If anyone can add their info, that would be great.

Brown Paper Tickets said...

Here is the accidentally-deleted info on Brown Paper Tickets:

BPT provides a service both to people who put on live events, and people who attend them. We offer an alternative to the corporations who charge an arm and a leg in service charges, as we charge the lowest service charge in the industry - and, it is free to sell tickets through us, so anyone can sell tickets, for any size event. We like the label "fair-trade", because we do pay our employees (more than) a living wage, and we're constantly taking actions to decrease our carbon footprint. We also operate under the Not-Just-For-Profit business model, and donate 5% of our profits to charity.

Tada! (:

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