As the zoonotic Covid-19 ravages the world, it is more important than ever for people to realize the interconnections between humans and animals, according to Vicki Benjamin, founder and president of Karner Blue Capital.

Karner Blue Capital, based in Bethesda, Md., and its mutual fund offering, the Animal Impact Fund, are devoted to the welfare of animals in captivity and in the wild. Named for an endangered butterfly, Karner Blue is an investment management, advocacy, research and educational firm designed to promote animal welfare in industry, agriculture and consumer services.

“Among other animal issues, we want people to recognize that the rise and spread of this disease was not anything unpredictable. It’s a derivative of reckless animal handling and consumption practices, and it demonstrates the essential need for human beings to compassionately share the planet with other species,” Benjamin said.

Covid-19, which has sickened millions worldwide already, may have jumped from a bat or a pangolin, a small anteater-like animal that is one of the most trafficked animals in the world, to humans through "wet markets" in China that trade in live animals for consumption. Asian countries also have wild markets, where wild animals are traded for trophies or pets. Both are vivid examples of human/animal interactions that can lead to dire consequences, Benjamin said.

Benjamin founded Karner Blue Capital three years ago and launched the Animal Impact Fund in September. So far in its short history, the Animal Impact Fund has out-performed the standard indexes by a few basis points.

“Through investment in animal welfare industry leaders and engagement with those that lag behind, Karner Blue seeks to earn financial returns for its investors, influence the behavior of corporations and improve the lives of animals globally,” the Karner Blue website says.

Karner Blue Capital may be the only investment management firm offering a mutual fund that takes animal welfare; environmental, social and governance (ESG), and socially responsible investing (SRI) into account.

“When we started, we had to do the research from the bottom up” on which companies were the leaders and the laggards on the animal welfare front, said Benjamin, who was previously president of Calvert Investments, adding that the effort took 18 months because companies do not report their track records on the metrics that support animal welfare. “We had to define the universe first and then find good companies to encourage by investing in them and and find the companies that were not doing well so we could engage them and push them in the right direction.”

Karner Blue places a premium on companies that value biodiversity and those that take action to support animal welfare. The Animal Impact Fund, which has a minimum investment requirement of $2,000 and can arrange automatic withholding for large accounts, has 93 companies in it. The Animal Impact Fund was designed to reach the masses and engage more investors, Benjamin said. The fund has three share classes for determing the maximum annual fees: the Investor Class, 1.25%; the Institutional Class, 1%, and the Butterfly Class, 0.85%.

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