Wednesday, May 30, 2007

SRI - Socially Responsible Investing: A new paradigm?

A precise definition of Social Entrepreneurship continues to elude us as we go about our task of bringing our projects to life. We are moving on from the conceptual stage to that of a living organism, the pilot stage in which we will actually interact with the under-served people we intend to impact the most. Along the way we will face challenges in raising capital, remaining sustainable, managing growth, managing the different constituencies that make up the social enterprise, and yet managing to remain focused on the initial mission with which we intended to start out. But are we the only ones with problems? But another key constituent in the social eco-system, the social investor, has her own set of problems. Her big challenge is to choose from amongst a range of social initiatives and decide which one gives the biggest bang for the buck.

The Social Investment Forum ( defines “Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)” as the integration of personal values and societal concerns with investment decisions, in the sense of considering the investor’s financial needs with the investment’s impact on society. So, what’s new here? Is this a new paradigm for age-old philanthropy? Is it new wine in an old bottle? Is there a problem of plenty here? Maybe, but maybe not.

To give credit where it is due, there is now a willingness on a certain part of the investment community to take a more holistic look at investment by considering the impact on society and the environment, in addition to a return on investment. So metrics such as social return on investment, social impact and social outcomes are just as important to the socially responsible investor as they are to the social entrepreneur.

There is hope yet, that the investment climate will become conducive to the needs of the social enterprise even though the process may be slow. We need an enabling ecosystem to survive. How do we save the world, if we don’t build sustainable social enterprises? So let us move forward and redefine the social ecosystem.



BrookfieldCT said...

We are in a hurry. The hurry is: we humans are in the process of destroying our planet. Global warming is the single most significant environmental crisis the world community has ever seen. The 2007 G8 Summit in Germany will focus on the reversal of global warming. President Bush, of course opposes this proposal. Like his strategy in the Middle East, he has a better idea, and he wants to convince the world of something they already know is untrue. This time it’s not that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but that global warming is not that dire an issue.

Our Nero-like President fiddles, but we cannot allow our Rome to go up in flames. This isn’t a city’s destruction we speak of. It is the end of all of us, of history, of every thought and feeling humankind ever produced. Our present federal government is not going to do anything about this crisis.

Our company, Connecticut Real Estate and Construction wishes to do something about it, because Connecticut needs workforce housing in significant number for very important reasons. Suburban sprawl is killing the environment. When we continually clear off two acres and more per household to put up large houses, we cut down trees which produce oxygen, we deplete the filtering system for our water, and we make houses which leave a carbon footprint which further opens a hole in the ozone. If we instead build multiple units together and build them with solar photovoltaic cell panels and with geothermal heating and cooling, we leave virtually no carbon footprint, we leave sufficient greenery to filter water run-off, and we provide our workforce with housing that allows them to stay in the state and not flee to the South and Southwest as has been the recent trend. As a result, those businesses (and their tax revenues) which require those workers need not flee with the workforce, a trend we have seen throughout the Northeast region of the country.

Additionally, we will build elderly housing. The Boomer Generation is aging. They are retiring at record rates and require specific housing that does not exist in sufficient number. We will build it. We will build commercial buildings and office space to go along with the elderly and workforce housing. We need cooperation from local governments to achieve our goals, and we need that cooperation quickly. As we move forward, we will build with town tax rolls in mind. We are aware that the workforce housing will require significant services and expenses, most notably educational expenses. This is why mixing the elderly housing with the workforce balances the ledger, for the elderly pay taxes without sending children to schools. Further, the commercial and office buildings will bring in significant tax revenues without pulling out revenues from the local municipality. This formula is referred to as “Smart Growth” and is to be part of our plans.

While proposing “caution” and “care” is never foolhardy advice, studies on these issues have already been done and “smart growth” is necessary throughout the state. We cannot wait. The cost is too dear for all of us to sit idly by and fiddle away time as the planet goes up in flames.


Miles J. Shapiro, Partner
Connecticut Real Estate and Construction
VP Marketing and Commercial Real Estate

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