Guest Blogger: Joshua Peterson, Cottonwood Institute Board Member and Treasurer:
Mission and Purpose: This is what drives us to get out of bed each morning. Mission and purpose drive our decisions on where and why we work, the organizations we build and why we serve our communities. Without mission and purpose, life would be seemingly directionless…empty. Mission and purpose are what drove me to join the Cottonwood Institute (CI) as a board member and treasurer.
To connect underserved students to the outdoors and empower them to take action to improve their schools, the community, and the environment for future generations.
For 13 years, our Founder and Executive Director, Ford Church, and his dedicated team have fulfilled this mission masterfully. They have undoubtedly changed lives and have created an awareness in our future stewards. While the operational aspect of CI had been brilliantly executed, I observed one gap, finance. I’m not talking about having enough money in the bank, budgets and investment allocations, I’m talking about WHO we are doing business with and WHAT kind of businesses are we investing in. I wanted to make sure that we were abiding by our mission from ALL aspects of the organization. After analyzing our banking relationships and our investment positions it was clear that it was time for a change.
A Better Bank: Evaluating our banking relationship was essentially a layup. We had banked with a large, public bank for many years without really thinking about it. While the relationship was very constructive, recent dealings surrounding fake account scandals and the organization’s continued involvement in the Dakota Access Pipeline deal made us question the integrity and intention of the company. We asked ourselves, do the actions of this company condone good, solid leadership…are they displaying actions that resonate racial and ethnic equality, stewardship for our home? We felt that our bank and its actions as an organization did not align to our mission, our purpose, so after many years we ended the relationship. In its place we found a local bank, Alpine Bank, that at its core, is all about community. It is an employee-owned organization which invests in the community and displays unabashed environmental leadership as it ranks in the top 50 of the greenest organizations in the state!
Sustainable Investments: Our next task was to analyze our current investment portfolio. Discussing the results at a board meeting were eye-opening, but unfortunately not uncommon, as many socially responsible non-profits fall in to this mission alignment gap.
- The top 20 holdings within each mutual fund created 862M tons of CO2
- Our portfolio created 0.67 tons of CO2
- We had exposure to 19 oil and gas companies
- The reputation risk of many firms we had invested in were average at best as several had some type of legal, human rights, environmental or other violation
The board courageously and unanimously approved to move forward with a NEW way to invest. Working with Ken Jacobs, CFP, AIF, CLU and Laura Isanuk, CFP, AIF from Sustainable World Financial Advisors, we have now have 100% of our investable assets with First Affirmative Financial Network, a Certified B Corporation investment advisor and one of the local pioneers in sustainable investing, and Calvert Foundation.
This story is one of many. More and more non-profits are looking at their banking relationships and investment portfolios to determine if those relationships and decisions are antithetical to their mission as Directors and Board Members are looking at their organizations from a holistic perspective, not just their outcomes. Despite our story and countless others, we need non-profits to be the leaders in the sustainable business, investing and divestment movements. These organizations were built on mission and purpose, it is only natural that these organizations take these steps to help create a more equitable and sustainable world.
Joshua Peterson is a Board Member and Treasurer for the Cottonwood Institute. Joshua also sits on the Colorado Sierra Club Executive Committee and is a Partner at Social Venture Partners. Joshua recently was selected to participate in the inaugural Integrated Capital Fellowship through RSF Social Finance. More about Joshua can be found at www.linkedin.com/in/joshuaapeterson/