Getting to the Heart of Sustainability

You can take a sustainable approach to your investments by supporting causes that matter to you and investing in ways that align with your values.

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Podcast Transcript

Host: Stephanie Rico, Business Initiatives Consultant, Wells Fargo Environmental Affairs

Guest: Kimberly Ryan, Portfolio Manager, Wells Fargo Private Bank Social Impact Investing


If you care about living well and allowing future generations to do the same, on some level you are talking about sustainability. Hello, this is Stephanie Rico with Wells Fargo's Environmental Affairs. I'm joined on this podcast by Kimberly Ryan, a Portfolio Manager with Wells Fargo Private Bank's Social Impact Investing team, who's going to talk to us about how you can apply your values in ways that help foster a positive impact on society.

Kimberly, what individual actions can our audience take to effect lasting change?


Well, Stephanie, I recommend first identifying what matters to you. Then focus on three things: how you can make a difference in your community, how you can use your money to support causes that matter to you, and finally how to invest your money in ways that align with your values.


Great suggestions, Kimberly. How can our listeners make a dent in such a broad issue as sustainability?


Our challenges around sustainability can seem daunting but in my opinion, small steps can lead to bigger things. One event that really put a spotlight on this idea came from my mom.


Would you mind sharing her story with us?


Of course. When my mom retired she left a community where she had meaningful involvement. She felt a lost sense of purpose, but found it again after meeting Nancy, a woman who since 1970 had been taking food to migrant workers in the central valley. She saw people with few resources, convinced a number of stores to provide food that would otherwise have been disposed of, and fed people. My mom worked alongside her, delivering food, up until Nancy's passing at the age of 95. A foundation was established and continues her generous work today.


That seems like it certainly had a positive impact on the community. How did your mother's experience change the way you think about sustainability challenges?


Well, Stephanie, her experience showed me that we can begin to solve big problems with small actions. It also made me think about how, as investors, we can be a positive force for change.


So, Kimberly, what should an investor do if they want to invest their money in a more sustainable way?


We view sustainability issues as a source of risk as well as opportunity. Climate risk has been a major topic with institutional investors around the world. And economic studies have shown that companies with good sustainability practices may operate more efficiently.

Take the example of food waste. Despite growing more food than at any time in history, people still go hungry every day in America. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an estimated 30–40 percent of the U.S. food supply is wasted. Society is failing to meet this basic human need and putting tremendous stress on our natural resources. However, there are companies who recognize this risk and are taking steps to reduce food waste, reduce water use, and create new products that will put less stress on the environment.


Can you provide us with a brief example?


Sure. In 2015, a major food and beverage company exceeded its goal to reuse or recycle 90 percent of all the waste it generates. It has reduced the water use per unit of production by over 25 percent since 2006, and a reduction of almost 3.2 billion liters in 2015 alone compared to 2014.


I suspect that translates into cost savings for the company, as well. We still hear people say that there is a cost to investing with your values. What would you say to those in our audience who have similar concerns?


That is a concern we often hear; however, some recent research has focused on the question of whether some companies with strong sustainability policies and practices may have better risk-adjusted performance over time. And, while past performance is not a guarantee of future results, we consider this type of analysis fundamental in evaluating companies.


It's worth noting that responsible investing is no longer a niche. Globally, over $22.9 trillion in assets are now invested with social responsibility or sustainability in mind. So what steps should our audience take if they are interested in a sustainable approach to their investments?


There is no "one" view to sustainability. For some, it means avoiding the largest contributors to climate change, mainly energy and utility companies. Others may think of it in broader terms, encompassing overall health and well-being.

We suggest that you contact your investment professional to discuss strategies that may best suit your needs.


Kimberly, thank you for taking the time to discuss how sustainability can be integrated in our life and in our investments. And thank you to our audience for listening.

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