Social investing: 4 companies make a difference

USA Today
June 1, 2014

By Sam Becker

As con­sumers, it’s easy to become dis­il­lu­sioned by all of the neg­a­tive press cov­er­age pointed in the direc­tion of major cor­po­ra­tions. For every heart­break­ing story of neg­li­gence or mali­cious prof­i­teer­ing, many oth­ers slip through the cracks that cen­ter around the phil­an­thropic or good-​​natured con­tri­bu­tions to the world that many com­pa­nies make. With so much neg­a­tiv­ity, from sto­ries involv­ing Gen­eral Motors’ (GM) recalls, to alleged worker exploita­tion by Wal-​​Mart (WMT) or McDonald’s (MCD), and even giant envi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ters at the hands of com­pa­nies like British Petro­leum (BP), it’s all too easy to get swept up in an anti-​​corporate fer­vor, much of which is deservedly earned by many companies.

For every pub­lic hit a big com­pany like any of the afore­men­tioned takes, every other pub­lic rela­tions depart­ment in the world gets a chance to watch from a dis­tance and learn from its mis­takes. Calls for higher cor­po­rate tax rates and large-​​scale protests like Occupy Wall Street have also put big com­pa­nies in an awk­ward posi­tion in which they must still strive for increased growth and and prof­its for their share­hold­ers while also main­tain­ing a good rela­tion­ship with the pub­lic. How are com­pa­nies actu­ally man­ag­ing to pull off such a jug­gling act?

Many cor­po­ra­tions have some sort of out­reach pro­gram to invest back into its com­mu­ni­ties or offer a char­i­ta­ble arm in some shape or form. Oth­ers don’t do any­thing at all. Then there are some that are actively tak­ing ini­tia­tive to have a real, tan­gi­ble, and pos­i­tive impact on soci­ety through var­i­ous means. Here are four com­pa­nies that are chang­ing the way they do busi­ness to have less harm, or sim­ply stick­ing to an old promise to help out.

Read on to see four com­pa­nies that are actively invest­ing in the bet­ter­ment of society:

1. SolarCity (SCTY)

SolarCity is at the fore­front of the com­ing wave of renew­able green energy that is start­ing to chip away at the stran­gle­hold the fos­sil fuel indus­try holds on most of the world. Amer­i­can busi­ness has been sit­ting by while Ger­many has taken the reins as the world’s solar leader, although solar has finally started to pick up momen­tum across the United States. SolarCity became one of the first pub­licly traded solar installers in the United States in late 2012, and last year saw growth of its cus­tomer base by more than 100%, accord­ing to the Mer­cury News. But SolarCity is doing more than just sup­ply­ing cheap, renew­able energy to communities.

Recently, the com­pany has announced a plan to intro­duce an online plat­form to sell debt invest­ments backed by its solar projects. Indi­vid­ual investors will be able to take part, which was pre­vi­ously only avail­able to large lenders. By intro­duc­ing this new plat­form, SolarCity is open­ing up the solar energy mar­ket to many more peo­ple who were pre­vi­ously shut out and allow­ing indi­vid­ual investors to sup­port renew­able energy.

In the words of CEO Lyn­don Rive, “peo­ple want to sup­port clean energy devel­op­ment. Cus­tomers are see­ing the ben­e­fits of get­ting solar for their homes but they would like to par­tic­i­pate in other ways as well.” He added that, “With our invest­ment plat­form, we’re hop­ing to allow far more indi­vid­u­als and smaller orga­ni­za­tions to par­tic­i­pate in the trans­for­ma­tion to a cleaner, more dis­trib­uted infrastructure.”

For the full arti­cle, please visit USA Today.