Vermilion Energy heats the 15-hectare Tom d’Aqui tomato greenhouse in Parentis, France, using geothermal energy from its oil production. Credit: Vermilion Energy Inc.
Impact investing is a great way to align your investments and your values. It’s a good way to invest for women, who are nurturers, not only of their families but also their money, says Patti Dolan, a portfolio manager with Calgary-based Mission Wealth Advisors, who specializes in responsible investing.
“Women are very passionate about having a better future for their children,” says Dolan, who hosted a recent panel discussion on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) at an environmental gathering hosted by the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation earlier this spring.
When companies align themselves to the UN SDGs—a blueprint to achieve a better, more sustainable future— it means there’s much more transparency around how they do business. It allows investors to clearly understand where companies stand on a wide range of issues, from “no poverty” and “zero hunger”, to “quality education”, “gender equality”, “responsible production”, and consumption and sustainable cities and communities.
According to Dolan, when investors consider the good that their money is doing—whether it’s choosing which companies to invest in or letting the companies know what values are important to you—it truly makes a difference. From regulations that require female representation on public boards, to better working conditions and pay equity, these are just a few examples of how shareholders can influence the way that businesses operate. “Investing has that kind of ability to actually influence change. And there are regulatory bodies that have listened and made changes,” Dolan says.
She insists that investors will not give up returns to do good with their money, pointing to the Jantzi Social Index, a stock index of 50 Canadian companies that has outperformed the Toronto Stock Exchange by half a percentage point year over year since its establishment in 2000.
Investors who consider sustainability and social responsibility to be important can identify the SDGs that are most important to them, and then look for successful companies aligned with those SDGs to invest in.
One such company is Calgary-based Vermilion Energy, a mid-sized oil and gas exploration and production company with operations in North America, Europe and Australia, which considers market performance to be correlated with strong sustainability performance. While many people may think of oil and gas firms as not being environmentally friendly, Vermilion is a prime example of an energy producer that takes sustainability seriously. Sustainability – environmental, social and economic – is at the centre of how it operates, and the UN SDGs are an important part of this.
“We recognize that we can’t do this alone. Working together to achieve the overall goal of the SDGs in partnership can take us much, much farther than we can go on our own,” said panel member Yvonne Jeffery, Vermilion’s manager of Communications, Community Investment and Sustainability, noting that Vermilion focuses on both reducing the environmental impacts of traditional energy production while also developing renewable energy projects.
As just one example, Jeffery points to Vermilion’s regenerative approach to doing business at a project in Parentis-en-Born in southwestern France, which uses geothermal energy as a by-product of traditional oil production to heat 15 hectares of greenhouses that grow tomatoes on the vine. This recycled energy project, located next to Vermilion’s office, is aligned with UN SDG No. 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and SDG No. 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth). Vermilion’s project, which began in 2008 in partnership with a cooperative of tomato growers, makes locally grown tomatoes affordable, currently producing 7,500 tonnes of tomatoes each year. This partnership has created 250-plus agricultural jobs with more to come, reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 10,000 tonnes per year, and reduces the need to import tomatoes as well as the associated emissions.
You can do tremendous good with how you direct your money. When you nurture your money, it will benefit you and the people you love – and you can also use it to help make a difference in the world around you.