What is Socially Responsible Investing?

It’s also more commonly known as Sustainable and Impact Investing or Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Investing. It turns out that this is what Aspen Leaf Wealth Management has been specializing in since 2012, bringing customers the opportunity to align their investments with their values.

Aspen Leaf took a bigger step towards its vision of building a more sustainable and inclusive economy by becoming a Certified B Corporation earlier this year. Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose with profit.

I was honored to speak recently with Pete Pittman, one of Aspen Leaf’s advisors based in Golden, CO.

Pete Pittman and family

Pete and I really hit it off due to our mutual passion for helping mission-driven entrepreneurs grow and prosper. Pete specifically advises them with a socially responsible retirement plan, sustainable investing, valuation and strategic planning. He has been involved with entrepreneurship since childhood as his father and both grandfathers were all self-employed, then earning a business degree in Entrepreneurship and assisting other family members with their businesses. 

Pete had previously worked closely with small businesses, community banks and individual investors while at a large financial institution, but he found that there was something missing in their philosophy. As he told me, “I wanted to be the planner that I always wanted for myself.” Someone who would listen deeply for the client’s values, needs, priorities, and stage of life – not how their portfolio was invested or performing.

I was actually surprised when Pete said that the technical part of building a diversified portfolio with competitive returns is fairly commoditized at this point with no one firm having a competitive edge over another. The more challenging piece is emotionally helping each client uncover what money means to them, why it’s important and how they can build a more intentional financial plan.

What is the connection between clients’ personal goals and socially responsible investing? It’s pretty straightforward, actually:

  • Peoples’ hearts and values are usually about much more than just accumulating wealth, buying more stuff and dying rich.
  • When people invest in causes they believe in, they’re much more likely to achieve their goals as they feel better aligned with their internal compass.

Pete experienced this early in life when both of his parents died pretty young, before the traditional “retirement” age, and he realized that the idea of acquiring a huge nest egg wasn’t his primary goal in life. He wants to live more mindfully in the moment while building security for his family. And he’s realized that money in the bank is not the same as quality of life or finding true contentment.

Instead, he’s dedicating himself to work for a small company where achieving customers’ life goals really is the purpose, whether that’s with investments or not.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

I asked Pete about what the next stages are for the business. For one, they’ve started connecting investment decisions with the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, clear foundational metrics for global sustainability in a comprehensive set of areas. The SDGs aren’t as well known in the USA as in Europe, but they’re powerful. Even though they’re big-picture, it’s pretty easy to see how a family, organization or business can make a difference.

The folks at Aspen Leaf are also riding the waves of change that continue in the financial services industry and the larger society, with no signs of slowing down. But Pete is confident that they are positioned well due to their greater emphasis on sustainability, impact, and stakeholder capitalism and helping each client live a meaningful life that is uniquely theirs.