[There is a growing explosion of interest, media coverage, investment products and dollars going into socially responsible investments—despite a large percentage of advisors still not openly receptive or adopting the strategy with their clients. Financial services manufacturers have responded with a flood of socially responsible financial vehicles (mutual funds, ETFs, insurance sleeves, private equity, etc.) at a very brisk pace.

Historically, whenever there is a great deal of friction and opportunity—where traditional mindsets are in direct collision with changing investor perceptions and client values—we tend to get industry changing disruption. There may be something meaningfully structural going on here.

To get a better understanding of what is happening between the hype, biases, inaccuracies and any substantive change going on, the Institute for Innovation Development decided to reach out to a cross-section of socially responsive asset managers—from ESG to impact to focused thematic strategies—and get their real world, in-the-trenches perspective and thought leadership. We would like to thank Ultimus Fund Solutions—one of the largest independent fund administrators—who provided introductions to some of their socially responsive asset manager clients and that has created fund vehicles for all of them to enable more access for investors to socially driven investment options.

Let me introduce you to our panel and then we will jump into getting a true lay of the land from the following experts in this field:

Erika Karp, Founder & CEO, Cornerstone Capital Group—a New York City-based investment advisory firm whose mission is to build and support the field of sustainable and impact investing for values-based investors.

Robert Uek and Bill Page, co-managers of the Essex Environmental Opportunities Fund—Essex is a Boston-based investment manager that operates at the nexus of environment and finance investing in companies that enable greater natural resource and energy efficiency.

Vicki Benjamin, President, Karner Blue Capital—is Bethesda-based and the first investment management firm that offers strategies centered around animal welfare. Through investment in animal welfare industry leaders and engagement with those that lag behind, they seek to earn financial returns for their investors, influence the behavior of corporations and improve the lives of animals globally.

Matthew Blume, Director of ESG Research & Shareholder Activism, Appleseed Capital—the institutional impact investing group of Pekin Hardy Strauss Inc., a Chicago-based independent firm providing funds and separate account strategies for investors that support their values through impact and ESG investing.

Robert G. Smith, President & Chief Investment Officer, Sage Advisory Services—an Austin-based advisory firm that offers fixed income and equity ESG investment solutions that embody a commitment to sustainability and responsible investing. ]  

Bill Hortz: From your perspective as active leaders in social investing, what are your biggest concerns on the space right now?

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