GreenMoney's 25 Year Journey - Influencing Capital and Corporations
by Cliff Feigenbaum, founder and managing editor, GreenMoney Journal and GreenMoney.com
Twenty-five years. Is that possible? Have I been publishing the GreenMoney Journal for 25 years? When I realized that 2017 was upon us, and that 25 years had passed, I knew it was time to take a look “back” to the future that GreenMoney has been striving to help create since 1992.
So it’s time to re-explore our roots, although, truth be told, I’m more comfortable writing about the future than about the past. GreenMoney’s “mission” has always been about where sustainable business and responsible investing is headed rather than about where it has been. In this special Anniversary issue we will explore “The Next 25 Years”, but before we get to that, let’s go back to the beginning.
And of course it starts with a few questions… What were the roots of all of this for me? Was it the wildlife programs on TV like Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” or the “Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” or the Ecology flags we pasted on our bumpers in the early 70s? Or was it that public service ad on TV of the canoeing Native American tearing up as he looked at the litter and pollution along the river. Or maybe it was those smog alerts in the early 70s in LA where I grew up.
Fast forward to the late 80s; I had been a member of both Greenpeace and the Cousteau Society for many years, but was far from being an environmental activist. I recall a lunch break from my job when I read the latest Greenpeace newsletter and I thought to myself – “can things really be that bad”? I continued to read more about corporate malfeasance and environmental degradation, not to mention the growing perils to animals and other species.
A few years later I was working at a hospital in Spokane, WA. After I chose my 401k plan I soon discovered, as I was trying to make more “informed” financial decisions, that the mutual funds had numerous tobacco stocks in their holdings. Wow! At a healthcare institution! So I took my finding to the CFO, who said he could not do anything about it. As I left his office he said “Oh, by the way, don’t tell anybody about this, because I don’t think they’ll care…”There were over 1000 employees and I thought they would like to know. At that time a good friend of mine happened to be a skilled writer and editor; we decided after much research to write an article on socially responsible investing (SRI) for the local Journal of Business. Much to our surprise they published our first draft.
A sign. A moment of clarity. It was the first of many events over the years that inspired me to keep moving forward. Within a year I had left the hospital job to begin talking, writing and eventually launching GreenMoney Journal (GMJ). The first quarterly issue was published in August 1992.
I also began attending a variety of business and investing conferences around the US and Canada, including The “SRI in the Rockies” Conference (which I have attended 26 years in a row) where I met the SRI greats, from whom I learned extensively. Most memorable was meeting someone I still call a friend, Hal Brill, who years later would end up co-writing a book with me. I was also giving many talks to spread the SRI message around Spokane, mostly at the Peace and Justice Center. There I met my second and long time editor, Ted Ketcham and his wife Diane, who have been the guiding “tone” in the GreenMoney articles over the last 20 years.
As I began publishing, the idea of selling ad space came into clarity when a potential advertiser asked us to take ads. Yes, the money component. The content, the printing, the paper, the mailing list – were all elements to publishing and sales that I had no clue about. Though I lacked direct publishing experience, it turned out I was good at all aspects because I really believed in what we were doing. Also some years earlier, I had earned a Business Management degree from Whitworth University where people of faith helped guide me through life’s challenges. Through Whitworth, I got to travel the world a bit, as well.
In 1993, another one of those inspirational moments of “clarity” occurred when well-known author and activist Paul Hawken mentioned GreenMoney Journal by name in his article on Sustainable Business in the much-respected Utne Reader magazine. Wow! I had no idea it was coming, but it brought with it a tremendous boost. The quarterly publishing continued with more readers, more feedback, and more advertisers.
“...newsletters like GreenMoney Journal, are drawing up new codes of conduct for corporate life that integrate social, ethical, & environmental principles.” - Paul Hawken, noted author and environmentalist
As GreenMoney started to take shape, there were lots of questions from friends about what we were doing. I knew it was the “right” thing for me to be spending a considerable amount of my time creating this new publication. The driving force within me was about “helping people make informed financial decisions”. Many friends did not understand, as the national popularity of “entrepreneurship” had not taken off just yet. So they had 9-5 jobs and I did not. That led to many disappointments for them and for me when I was unavailable.
A different sort of “clarity” came in 1995 when I was approached by someone who wanted to takes us “online.” I hardly knew what he meant, but yes, that is where the GreenMoney.com website was born. Though we worked together for several more years it was not a great partnership. In fact, he attempted to trademark my “GreenMoney Journal” name and take the website. I am not one to admit failure but that was a bad call on my part and I learned an expensive lesson: Just as you pick your business partners carefully you must also pick your relationship partners carefully. You can’t always see the pitfalls ahead. A marriage that started that year also did not last.
I was on the road a lot meeting interesting people and expanding my knowledge on a variety of topics to cover in the publication. I vividly recall meeting a hero of mine, Jane Goodall. In truth I felt her eyes looked deeper into my soul then I had ever experienced. Some years later I had even had lunch with one of Jacques Cousteau’s son, Jean-Michael.
1997 was a huge year for GreenMoney. My editor for the first five years, Tom Kliewer became too busy with his full time job and a new baby at home, so he called to resign. Luckily, Ted Ketcham, whom I mentioned before, was available. He, along with wife Diane, have served as editors ever since. Ted’s experience as an English teacher helped me develop more confidence in writing articles and even doing some of the editing.
Late in 1997, “the call”, as I refer to it, came in. The call, that really changed GreenMoney’s trajectory was from Bloomberg Press in NYC. They wanted to know if I was interested in writing a book on SRI. After a slight hesitation, I responded with “I am not sure we can work together because you believe first in profits. I believe first in principles, then in profits.” Their acquisitions editor’s response: “We see this coming and we want to publish a book on it first. Since you know more than we do –we won’t edit very heavily”.
I thought about it carefully and agreed while panicking inside. I had never written a book. Clueless, I reached out to good friends who had written a book, Hal Brill and his father Jack. Both were SRI financial professionals who had written for several publications and whose writing I admired. They said a tentative yes. Later that year Hal and I attended a conference on Business and Spirituality in Mexico along with sustainable business leader Hazel Henderson. Hazel agreed to meet with us and discuss her process of writing a book. She had written several by then. In her ever graceful but straightforward way Hazel said, “It is yours to do in the world, now go to it”. Period.
So began the book-writing odyssey that eventually led us to New York City and Bloomberg HQ, once the book, “Investing with Your Values” had been published in May of 1999. Let me also mention that we were honored to recruit well-known SRI pioneer Amy Domini to write the foreword to the book.
Read the rest of Cliff's article on GreenMoney's 25 Year Journey which brings us up to July 2017, here - http://greenmoneyjournal.com/greenmoneys-25-year-journey
Welcome to GreenMoney’s special 25th Anniversary issue. This July/Aug issue features a variety of insightful writers looking at “The Next 25 Years of Impact Investing and Sustainable Business.” That 25-year time frame allows for a calmer sense to prevail, versus the urgency of current events. The opportunity to become more financially and politically savvy is key to aligning our money with our values and using our money to create the sort of world we want to live in.
But before we take a glimpse at a more sustainable future, let me begin with a look at the journey that has brought GreenMoney to the present. For a bit of nostalgia, I’ve included a PDF of our first print newsletter we published in August 1992, it is on www.GreenMoney.com
This month also marks the launch of the new vastly upgraded GreenMoney.com website – where you will find more, of well, everything. So take a look and spend some time getting more familiar with our new website. Special thanks to my team, Michelle, Brian and Acacia, who have been working diligently on this project. Our 25th Anniversary will continue into 2018 with a series of compelling issues, so stay tuned.