September 05, 2012
Muhammad Yunus, Father of Microcredit and Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, to Address SRI Conference
by Robert Kropp
The founder of the Grameen Bank will be the keynote speaker at October's SRI Conference on
Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing, which will also feature author Deepak Chopra and Robert
F. Kennedy Jr. Second of a two-part series.
At last year's SRI in the Rockies Conference in New Orleans, I mined several of the addresses and
breakout sessions for articles on SocialFunds.com. Rebranded as The SRI Conference on Sustainable, Responsible, Impact
Investing, this year's event, scheduled to open on October 2nd at the Mohegan Sun Conference
Center in Connecticut, promises to yield at least as much reportage.
"This year we have
several high-profile guest speakers who are not industry players, but who are also very much
involved in how do we make the world a better place," Steve Schueth, President of First Affirmative Financial Network,
This year's keynote speaker will be Muhammad Yunus, the
founder of the Bangladesh-based Grameen
Bank and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. The mission of microfinance—to provide
banking services to the world's poor—can be traced back to the 1993 founding of the bank by Yunus.
In less than two decades since then, microfinance institutions (MFIs) have grown at a remarkable
"His leadership in the community impact side of the SRI space is through primarily
lending to groups of women who have collective responsibility over the money," Schueth said. "His
model has now been replicated many, many times, around the world."
"How do we provide
banking to the poorest of the poor?" Schueth continued. "He's provided investment opportunities for
those who are willing to put money into the microlending model he created."
has had a measure of direct involvement in sustainable investing in the US, Schueth revealed,
having served on the board of the Calvert
International Fund in the early nineties.
"We have invited him to speak every year for the
past five years," Schueth said.
An especially intriguing addition to this year's agenda is
Deepak Chopra, a popular author and
speaker best-known for his works on spirituality. The mission of his Foundation "is to participate with individuals and
organizations in creating a critical mass for a peaceful, just, sustainable, and healthy world."
"Chopra has never really been involved with our industry before, but has written and
talked a lot over the years about responsibility as investors, consumers, and human beings,"
Schueth said. "Obviously, he comes at this thing from a much more spiritual perspective, and his
point is that a good and somewhat enlightened person cannot help but be a socially responsible
"If you have those values and bring them to the financial game, then you have
to be conscious of what your money is doing," Schueth continued. "You have all of this stuff that
happens with money, but ultimately it's people that guide the process and whose values are
reflected in it. Chopra will help us understand that as human beings, we can bring a spiritual and
holistic element to the process that can make it that much richer and impactful."
credited Rinaldo Brutoco of the World
Business Academy with helping First Affirmative bring Chopra to this year's conference.
Also presenting at the conference will be Robert F. Kennedy Jr., as part of a three-person
plenary presentation on corporate responsibility for waste recovery systems, which will be
moderated by Bill Shireman of the Future
500. An attorney and President of the advocacy group Waterkeeper Alliance, Kennedy's efforts on behalf of Riverkeeper has helped transform the Hudson
River from an "open sewer" in the 1960s to one of the richest water bodies on earth today.
The many breakout sessions included in the conference agenda address most of the issues facing
sustainable investment in the US today, from climate change and corporate political spending to
affinities between sustainable investors and the Occupy movement. One especially interesting
session will feature the top executives of three major sustainable investment firms—Boston Common Asset Management,
Calvert Investments, and Pax World
Management—in which the future of sustainable investing will be explored.
the 17th year, the Moskowit
z Prize for Socially Responsible Investing will be awarded for outstanding quantitative
research in the field.
Schueth also singled out for particular mention two events that, he
said, will serve as bookends for the conference.
"On the evening before the conference
begins, those who arrive will be invited to a special presentation by Robert Zevin," the founder of
Zevin Asset Management, Schueth said. "He
started managing money as a separate account manager in the late sixties, and became prominent in
the seventies in response to the Vietnam War. He was a pioneer asset manager in this space, and
he's still out there."
On the final evening of the conference, members of the Securities
and Exchange Commission's Investor Advisory Committee—including Adam Kanzer of Domini Social Investments—will hold a listening session in which
attendees can ask them about issues relating to Dodd-Frank and other regulatory matters of concern
to the industry.
"Everything we present at the conference has investment opportunities,"