Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy World Water Day!

As individuals, it’s easy to think about how to celebrate World Water Day. Drink tap water, encourage others to give up bottled water, email Stephen Harper and tell him it’s shameful that Canada does not support enshrining water as a human right.. But as a socially responsible investor?

Water is an area where there is so much green washing going on that it’s hard to know what to do. Mutual funds and ETFs focusing on water tend to include Suez, much maligned for it’s participation in the privatization of water, and sometimes Nestle or Danone for their bottled water businesses. Signatories to the CEO Water Mandate include the Chief Executive Officers of Coke, Nestle and Suez.

As with all SRI investments, it’s a good idea to do a little homework before you invest. One of the questions we ask ourselves is ‘what’s the best way to achieve our goals?’ Sometimes it’s positive screening, sometimes shareholder engagement, sometimes a boycott. And sometimes it’s also a recognition that in some areas, and perhaps water is one of them, the public sector is better able to safeguard our interests than the private sector.

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