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Socially Responsible Investing in the United States


Socially responsible investing (SRI) has emerged in recent years as a dynamic and quickly growing segment of the U.S. financial services industry involving over $2 trillion in professionally managed assets. Its conceptual origins can be found in the early history of civilization, with it's modern roots in the 1960s. This paper provides an overview of the breadth and depth of the concept and practice of socially and environmentally responsible investing, describes the investment strategies that together define SRI as currently practiced in the U.S., offers several observations about some of the factors fueling its dramatic growth, and presents data showing that investors who choose to invest in a socially and environmentally responsible manner can do so without giving up investment returns. SRI has matured to a point where virtually any investment need can be met through portfolio design that integrates an investor's personal values, institutional mission, and/or social priorities.

The socially responsible investment industry in the UnitedStates is a young phenomenon. Even referring to it as an "industry" ten years ago may have been a bit of a stretch. While it has grown dramatically in recent years, it is an area of work, of study and of practical application that continues to evolve in many significant ways.

One intriguing example of the ongoing development of the field can be found in the analysis of the language used to describe it. The terms social investing, socially responsible investing, ethical investing, socially aware investing, socially conscious investing, green investing, values-based investing, and mission-based or mission-related investing all refer to the same general process and are often used interchangeably.

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Schueth, S. Socially Responsible Investing in the United States. Journal of Business Ethics 43, 189–194 (2003).

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  • $2 trillion industry in the U.S.
  • description
  • history
  • performance myth – busted
  • socially responsible investing