1. Decide which issues are most important to you. Environmental issues may be top of the list, but you might also feel strongly about employment conditions or fair trade.
2. Research the grey areas. You may be determined to avoid the timber industry, but if you find out a company replants disused farmland, you might reconsider.
3. Take your time. Shop around for investment opportunities that are not only compatible with your personal values but also give you a good return on your money.
4. Ask questions. Request written information about where the financial organisation invests its money and how it makes its selections. Ask for rationales and any documents that support its claims. Just because a company claims to be ethical, it doesn’t mean it is.
5. Make sure that the investment mix is acceptable. Often, the pros and cons are not clear-cut. Even a bank or superannuation fund that claims to be ethical may invest in what you may judge to be unethical businesses. It may exclude armaments, gambling and tobacco stocks, for instance, but still invest in petrochemical industries.
6 Check out the top 10 to 20 holdings in an investment company’s portfolio. This information is available from the fund manager’s web site or call centre.
7. Ask about fees. SRI management fees may be higher than mainstream ones because of the level of checking and screening. However, you may consider any extra costs worthwhile to ensure that your money is being invested responsibly.
8. Look for regularly updated rankings of socially responsible companies on the Internet.
9. Learn the language. Portfolios can include investments such as equities, property, offshore investments and venture capital, all of which may be confusing for the uninitiated. Seek out specialist advice, attend seminars and courses, and read as much as you can.
10. Make your voice heard. Shareholders have the right to raise questions about corporate governance and to table resolutions on social and environmental issues.