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How New Canadians Can Become Involved in Socially Responsible Investment

Written by  New Canadian Media Wednesday, 13 May 2015 10:19
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Most banks run special programs designed to help social entrepreneurs achieve their business and ethical goals.
Most banks run special programs designed to help social entrepreneurs achieve their business and ethical goals. Photo Credit: Got Credit via Flickr Creative Commons

Corinne Ceciliaby Corinne Cécilia in Toronto

If you are new to Canada, chances are investing isn’t your main priority as you focus on settling down and addressing basic needs for yourself and your family. Yet, it is safe to assume that you are eager to thrive in this country, and there are several ways in which newcomers can both benefit from and be involved with socially responsible investment.

Join the Responsible Economy

When looking for work, consider careers in the area of the financial industry that are concerned with making the world a better place.

The 2015 Canadian Responsible Investment Trends Report published by the Responsible Investment Association says, “Canada’s responsible investment (RI) market is experiencing rapid growth. RI refers to the integration of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) criteria into the selection and management of investments.”

Your competitive advantage as a newcomer lies in your foreign language skills and your knowledge of the business/personal finance culture in your home country.

According to report data, as of December 31, 2013, assets in Canada being managed, using one or more RI strategies, increased from $600 billion to more than $1 trillion in just two years. The growth represents a 68 per cent increase in RI assets under management.

And don’t worry, you don’t necessarily need to be a financial expert to join this exciting field: there are opportunities in communications, administration, IT, HR and more.

Because the financial industry realizes the growth of its clientele is correlated with increasing immigration trends, it needs to address the diverse needs of new Canadians.

According to Statistics Canada, “[t]he number of foreign-born Canadians could total between 9.8 and 12.5 million, depending on immigration levels. By 2031, nearly half (46 per cent) of Canadians aged 15 and older could be foreign-born, or could have at least one foreign-born parent, up from 39 per cent in 2006.”

Your competitive advantage as a newcomer lies in your foreign language skills and your knowledge of the business/personal finance culture in your home country.

If these types of opportunities are not necessarily what you’re looking for, you may want to consider creating your own company – consider the path of becoming a social entrepreneur. These individuals go beyond the financial bottom line to pursue social, cultural and environmental goals.

According to Meaningful Business – An RBC Paper on Social Entrepreneurs, “Social enterprises are emerging in a broad range of sectors, especially retail, real estate and utilities; and 30 per cent of social enterprises surveyed showed high revenue growth.”

Most banks run special programs designed to help social entrepreneurs achieve their business and ethical goals. There are also initiatives such as the Immigrant Settlement and Integration through Social Enterprise project (ISISE) that are “designed to make the case for Social Enterprise development as an effective model for immigrant settlement and integration.” Learn more about these opportunities with the Canadian CED Network. 

Maximize Your Savings

Once you’ve settled in a new job and learned more about the labour market, it’s time to save for a “rainy day” and to secure some retirement income; you work hard for your money, and you will probably come to the conclusion that you need your money to work hard for you.

"SRI, if approached properly, can actually create positive change in society, as well as having a positive impact on the investors’ financial results."

Many Canadian companies offer their employees a Registered Retired Savings Program matching plan whereby you invest in mutual funds hoping for a good return. The problem is, not all mutual funds are socially responsible and, traditionally, fund managers are either unaware of, or not interested in, ethical investment options.

So you may want to research companies such as Ethical Funds and OceanRock Investments Inc., or seek out advice from an expert. The Responsible Investment Association has an interactive map to help you locate a responsible investment adviser.

If this seems too advanced, simply start by educating yourself about personal finance with websites that will help you make better decisions.

A good place to start is Settlement.org, a website that provides newcomers with information and resources to settle in Canada, answering basic questions on investment opportunities

Or you could visit Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, a federal government agency, and www.getsmartaboutmoney.ca, a service provided by the Ontario Securities Commission. Most Canadian banks now have free documentation to help newcomers understand ethical investing and how they can benefit from it.

As explained in CSI Global Education Inc.’s course on Socially Responsible Investment, “SRI has been, and to some extent continues to be, seen as a negative approach to investing. That is, many see it as the process of eliminating ‘bad’ companies from a portfolio. The common belief is that by limiting the choice of available companies, a portfolio’s overall return will suffer.

“The evidence to date tends not to support this view. Consequently, some advisers and mutual fund companies are attempting to move the industry and its perception forward towards the view that SRI, if approached properly, can actually create positive change in society, as well as having a positive impact on the investors’ financial results.”

The SRI sector’s best-kept secrets are innovative social enterprises specialized in renewable energy that provide high-interest returns opportunities by offering community bonds backed by long-term contracts with the province.

You can receive five per cent annual interest for five years by investing in Solar Bonds offered by the provincial co-operative SolarShare...or earn seven per cent each year for seven years by investing in North America’s first zoo-biogas plant, Zooshare, a building located across from the Toronto Zoo.

Sounds too good to be true? Well, experts have told us since the late 1990s that renewable energy will be the biggest investment opportunity in the 21st century: the time to embark is now, and all it takes is a small sum to start your high-return, responsible savings.

Shop Responsibly

Last, but not least, you can contribute to make the world a better place by becoming a discerning consumer.

There is a growing number of companies (such as American Apparel) and coalitions (such as Sweatshop Watch) that work to protect the rights of immigrants who work in North American factories and to eliminate sweatshop conditions in the global garment economy, including factories based in North America.

Companies are also manufacturing environmentally and socially sustainable products. And for all the products we need in everyday life, regardless of our budget, there is a more responsible option available on the market. Ask and you shall find!

Canada’s second annual Responsible Investment Week will take place from June 1 to 5, 2015. RI Week is a week dedicated to education and awareness about responsible investment (RI). 


Corinne Cécilia is the Managing Editor of Maison & Demeure, the sister publication of House & Home. Corinne is passionate about publishing and has worked as a researcher, columnist, writer and editor with Canadian and international magazines and media outlets. An adept of foreign languages and lifelong learning, she was the French editor of Education Canada magazine from 2007 to 2011. Corinne holds a Master’s degree in Anthropology.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

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