From Wall Street to SRI: Former Goldman Sachs Exec Invests in Triple Bottom Line

(3BL Media and Just Means) - When the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008 and Scott Sadler found himself without a job, he seized the opportunity to make a shift in his career; a change he would not have considered previously. Sadler had developed a solid career in finance and had worked at the VP level with Wachovia Bank and more recently, with Goldman Sachs. But when Goldman Sachs laid off one-third of their staff in Atlanta, Sadler’s wife encouraged him to consider starting a social impact investing firm.

“My wife said, “Let’s do something we’d be proud of.” I told her, “if you mean social impact investing, well, that’s voodoo,” laughs Sadler.

Today, Sadler is the President and Chief Investment Officer of Boardwalk Capital Management, an independent Registered Investment Advisory Firm specializing in sustainable and responsible investing. They are also a Certified Benefit Corporation and leading the way in the SRI movement in Atlanta. Sadler changed his mind about social impact investing after he did a bit of research and found that there are solid returns in ESG (environmental, social and governance) portfolios.  

“It came down to numbers. Can we invest in a successful way? I saw enough evidence of managers doing this. I wanted to be sure I’d have competitive return for my clients. My objective is to replace S&P portfolios with sustainably, responsible ones that can do just as well,” says Sadler.

But making decisions based on values isn’t easy at an investment firm. When Sadler started Boardwalk Capital Management, he thought he would never concede the firm’s values. He soon found that drawing those lines were harder than he thought.

“When I started this firm, I wasn't going to compromise. Either we’d help clients invest in sustainable companies or not at all. But, you have to approach people at their pace. There’s not a silver bullet product or strategy,” says Sadler.

A few lines Sadler has drawn for Boardwalk Management are with tobacco companies and with large tech companies with reputations of environmental and social degradation.  

“We decided that we can’t invest in Apple. We don’t own Apple which means we don’t own one of the world’s largest tech companies. It’s been challenging to leave them out, but we know they do a lot of harm,” says Sadler.

Sadler pursued the B Corp Certification for Boardwalk Capital Management as a way to help solidify their mission and to keep them accountable to making the hard decisions.

“Authenticity is a challenge. The B Corp model shows people you’re serious. We really do want to have different objectives that go beyond just making money for ourselves but include changing the world too,” explains Sadler.

In a 2012 article Sadler wrote for The Wall Street Journal, he said:

“ESG investing is not about charity—it’s about taking the resources you have and doing better with them. With proper research you can build portfolios of companies that are both leaders in their sectors as well as the best corporate citizens. Why wouldn’t you do that? You can have your cake and eat it too.”

Sounds like a win-win to me, Mr. Sadler. Eventually, SRI firms like Boardwalk Capital Management won’t be the outliers and I won’t have to write about the “uniqueness” of SRI investing to benefit the earth and its people will be the objective of every portfolio. The new economy is on its way.

Read about Boardwalk Capital Management. Read Sadler’s blog on WSJ.