If you're trying to save the world and also have some money to invest, the field of impact investing has some options. Sustainable, responsible and impactful investments, also known as SRI (formerly called "socially responsible"), are available as traditional mutual funds. But impact investments can be a different animal: Investors have the specific intent of making a positive social or environmental impact, with some return on their money.
Impact investments can be made in "developed markets such as the U.S. and Europe as well as emerging markets such as sub-Saharan Africa and India. They can target a wide variety of sectors. It can be anything from sustainable agriculture to affordable housing, microfinance and things like access to clean water or renewable energy," says Amit Bouri, managing director of the Global Impact Investing Network.
Though most of the opportunities in this realm are for accredited investors, there are ways that small investors can help. The Calvert Social Investment Foundation offers its Community Investment Note portfolio that lends out principal to underserved communities. When the note matures, you get your principal back with interest. There are no guarantees, but Calvert reports that none of the investors in its Community Investment Note portfolio have ever lost money.
Calvert isn't the only company to offer microfinance investments; other issuers of similar notes are available through the brokerage platform MicroPlace.