Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 6 No. 1 | Spring 1984 (Seattle) /// Issue 7 of 24 /// Master# 55 of 73

duced him to wealthy liberals who were beginning to question the moral implications of their investment strategies. “They’d ask me what I did for a living,” says Zevin, “ and when I’d tell them that one of my occupations was investment counseling, they’d be surprised: here was this guy who’d managed to reconcile his leftist political beliefs with his investments. Their reaction was: That’s unusual. Would you handle my investments for me?’ I got clients pretty rapidly that way, and by the time the war was over, I was concentrating most of my working time on investing.” Zevin joined U.S. Trust in the mid-’70s and by 1979 was handling $7 million in what the company termed “ socially sensitive” ’ accounts. By 1983 social accounts totaled $52 million. When Zevin predicts that his social accounts will hit $100 million by 1985, there is little reason to doubt him. Over the past three years they’ve outperformed U.S. Trust’s con- “ A V O ID 1 N G IN V E S T M E N T S IN T H E E V IL S A N D IL L S O F S O C IE T Y IS A S O U N D F IN A N C IA L D E C IS IO N ---- NO IN V E S T O R , NO M A T T E R W H A T H IS O R H E R P O L IT IC A L P E R S U A S IO N , W A N T S TO BACK C O M P A N IE S T H A T A R E C R E A T IN G P R O B L E M S IN S T E A D O F S O L V IN G T H E M . ” ventional accounts and the Dow Jones average, which doesn’t really surprise Zevin: social considerations, he says, are only good business sense. "A company that treats its employees in an innovative way will be innovative in the marketplace,” he says. “ Businesses that develop environmentally benign technologies avoid the costs that make polluters unprofitable — the nuclear power industry has been an investor’s nightmare, while alternative energy has done well. Small businesses, which are many of the companies we consider ’clean,’ have outperformed large corporations over the past several years, because they’ve been better able to adapt to the recession.” Zevin has hired a staff of portfolio managers and researchers to handle U.S. Trust’s social accounts, and together they have developed what is generally considered the nation’s most sophisticated system of ethical criteria. “My early clients taught me that it wasn’t effective just to not invest in something," says Zevin. “You have to go a step further. Divestiture of South African investments, the boycott of J.P. Stevens — they’re most effective as part of a broader effort. So we’ve had to work hard to define what a good company is.” To do that, Zevin and his associates look at a company’s performance not just in financial terms — though this aspect is certainly taken into account — but in social terms: What kind of products does it produce? How does it affect the environment? What are its hiring policies? How does it treat its employees? What are its politics? But the screen is not an absolute. Steve Moody, one of Zevin’s portfolio managers, notes that the criteria automatically rule out about a third of the country’s major corporations. But the vast majority fall into a gray area. Take Fort Howard Paper: “ It’s the country's leading manufacturer of recycled paper," says Moody. “ It’s also had labor problems and has refused to meet some pollution control requirements. But we looked at it and decided that its beneficial aspects outweigh its negative points, at least for the moment." Other companies Moody might recommend are People’s Express, whose innovative management policies — such as making all workers shareholders — has made it the country’s leading cut-rate airline, or Magma Power, whose development of geothermal power has made it one of the best utility buys in the past decade, even though, Moody admits, “ the Sierra Club has had some problems with them.” “You have to keep in mind that we re dealing with capitalism and its strengths and weaknesses, and that everything might be different six months from now," says Moody. “A company’s financial picture might change." As Robert says, it seems that the more you know about a corporation, the less you like it.” In line with that observation, Zevin has expanded his service to connect more demanding investors with riskier “enterprises with explicit commitments to social change” — consumer co-ops, community organizations, alternative media. And as social investing grows, says Zevin, this kind of “ alternative” investing will play a much bigger role. “ People will begin to use social criteria to promote new enterprises, creative financing for cooperative housing, things like that,” he says, “ rather than becoming embroiled in trying to determine whether this big oil company or that major steel producer can be considered socially responsible." From the sound of it, Zevin, instead of vainly trying to blow the capitalist machine off the highway, is working his way into the driver’s seat and subtly changing the vehicle’s course. But can anyone who switches roles so readily — from social activist to high-powered financier — be trusted? Zevin claims the two roles are really one. “ In the most basic sense there is no conflict between my investment work and my social conscience,” he says. “ Investment decisions depend on a fundamental analysis of the economy, and that is exactly what my political beliefs give me. And, from the other end, avoiding investments in the evils and ills of society is a sound financial decision — no investor, no matter what his or her political persuasion, wants to back companies that are „ , IKE ruAVE A LOT Of ANGCA MV PAO AMP o r CPUME I WAS AB^ T r * Y -TOTAU-V lf4 * WHERE I * Skeep iix Tkerapy creating problems instead of solving them.” ven as Robert Zevin was fundraising around Boston for the antiwar effort, Robert Schwartz was taking part in antiwar demonstrations in New York — albeit decked out in the medals he’d earned as a Marine captain in Okinawa in World War II. Today, as an investment executive for Shearson-American Express, Schwartz influences over a billion dollars in investments, much of it based on ethical concerns. He’s considered the dean of ethical investing, and, like Robert Zevin, he has a history of involvement in liberal causes, from the civil rights movement to the antinuclear crusade. He sees no contradiction between his ideologies and his chosen occupation. “You’re either a full- time revolutionary,” he once told the Wall Street Journal, “or you have to earn a living in a constructive way.” When confronted on the question, he points out that “ not everyone on Wall Street holds the conviction painted when people start talking about the ‘citadels of capitalism.' Like me, many of the senior people on Wall Street [Schwartz is 65] have children, and as their kids came of age, they became more concerned about the shape of the world. They can be persuaded to new points of view.” Schwartz is one of the movement’s cleverest tacticians. Consider, for exampie, the campaign he conducted against the Blue Diamond Coal Company. Blue Diamond, known as the “J.P. Stevens of Appalachia,” was one of the largest coal producers in Eastern Kentucky and one of its worst abusers of safety standards and environmental regulations. 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