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This Land Is Your Land

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The email header with the "For What It's Worth" logo, graphic that includes a hand holding a representation of a blooming flower that has money blooming at the top, and the tagline "Insights to invest in the world you want" underneath it.

Happy (early) Fourth of July!

We know it has been quite the crazy past few weeks — not only on the economic and financial side of the street — and none of us needs any more stress right now. But it is worth noting that this Independence Day doesn’t just mark a breather for our US readers, it also means that we’re at the halfway mark of 2022. Most portfolios are looking worse for wear due to rising interest rates, lots of news about inflation, and recession fears; although fossil fuel stocks have been a bright spot during the bear market, many climate-conscious investors may have missed out on these gains. As you know, FWIW likes to keep its eye on the long-term. While the market may be taking a record beating this year — the S&P 500 is down 20%, on track for its worst first-half performance since 1970 — history shows that it always, always bounces back eventually.

There are few bright spots: we have seen some sectors showing signs of bouncing back from their previous pandemic lows, including travel (don’t get us started on the number of stories we read this week about the challenges of holiday travel…), live music, and cinema-going, as we see some return to normalcy.

Americans are preparing to fire up the grill with friends and family this weekend, and, if you are one of them, there’s a good chance you’ll see chicken, fish, or plant-based meat on the menu. More than half of those planning a July Fourth gathering say they’re likely to buy these alternatives to the traditional fare because they’re cheaper (51%), healthier (50%), and better for the environment (22%). Consulting firm Kearney has also noted the emergence of “Climavores,” who switch up their protein sources for the sake of the environment rather than going fully vegetarian or vegan — for example, buying more chicken than beef or more soy products than pork. (Click here for the best-to-worst proteins for the climate.)

Despite these positive indicators and tons of hype, plant-based meat companies like Beyond Meat are still struggling to stand out in a very crowded sector and deliver the sales numbers investors were expecting. If you’re looking to bet on this area right now, be(ef) careful.

News you can use

Graphic of newspaper with magnifying glass
  • Apple’s iPhone turns 15 this week and CRISPR turns 10. While very different, both have had a profound impact on most of our lives. Here are two pieces that provide perspective on the roles the iPhone and CRISPR play in our society. And, of course, to get the definitive insider view, you can always turn to Walter Isaacson’s books — Steve Jobs and The Code Breaker.
  • Growth stocks? In this economy? Finding ESG funds that tilt towards value instead of growth is difficult, but not impossible. As more investors are looking to adjust their portfolios, Morningstar found 17 ESG large-value funds and 25 ESG large-blend funds that range from style-neutral to value-leaning, including Calvert US Large Cap Value Responsible Index (CFJIX), Nuveen ESG Large-Cap Value ETF (NULV), DFA US Sustainability Core (DFSIX), and Pax US Sustainable Economy (PXWGX).
  • Investors in Microsoft and Cisco are demanding more transparency about frowned-upon international tax practices like profit shifting. The shareholder proposals ask the firms to report country-by-country taxes in line with the GRI standards for sustainability. Shareholders have so far voted on a record 274 sustainability-related proposals this year, up 41% from last year, according to data cited by The Wall Street Journal.

Investing in America

Graphic of the American flag with a green field of green and white stars with green, white and black stripes.

With everything happening in the good ol’ US of A these days, now is a good time to ask yourself: is your investment portfolio helping shape the America that you want to see? From the outset, FWIW has been committed to helping you understand the powerful role you can play in creating the world you want to live in by directing your capital to support companies that align with your values. For some of you, one of those values may be raising up promising companies in your country, state, or community (this is where the purpose-and-profit piece really kicks in). In honor of Independence Day in the United States, we bring you this list of ideas designed to spur your thoughts on how to invest in the future you want for America. (And for those FWIW readers who are not in the US, we hope that this is an inspiration and guide to how to think about investing in your own countries and communities).

Greener cities

From New Orleans to Buffalo, local governments are using green bonds and environmental impact bonds to fund sustainable infrastructure projects. That includes everything from stormwater management to clean transportation and energy efficiency programs.

As an individual investor, you can choose to get in on the game by investing in exchange-traded funds and mutual funds that include green bonds in their offerings, such as the Calvert Green Bond Fund and the iShares Global Green Bond ETF.

And bonds aren’t the only way to support greener cities. Also consider:

  • Sustainable buildings: One of the easiest ways to invest in real estate (outside your own abode, of course) is through real estate investment trusts (REITs), which are bought and sold on major exchanges, just like stocks and ETFs. This overview from S&P Global can help you ID the REITs scoring highest on key ESG measures.
  • Renewable energy: If you’d like to see more solar panels and wind turbines dotting our landscapes, we shared a bunch of ideas in our recent solar-powered issue. And don’t forget about biofuels, which are a key part of the road to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Made in the U.S.A.

One popular way to support jobs at home: buying American-made products. As an investor, you can extend that philosophy to buying or holding stock in the companies that are creating jobs in your community.

Maybe you live across town from one of GE’s energy-efficient appliance factories, or have a friend who works in Greensboro, NC for synthetic and recycled yarn producer Unifi, or originally came from Normal, IL the proud home of the new Rivian truck factory. Wherever you live, buying stock in your community’s major employers can support your local economy.

Of course, there are many resources that can help you determine if investing in that company aligns with your values, including MSCI’s ESG Ratings & Climate Search Tool, the CDP website, Just Capital’s Racial Equity Tracker, and As You Sow’s Workplace Equity Report. We also know that the ups and downs of the market are hard to predict and in these turbulent times, now may or may not be the right time to invest. Whatever your perspective, please remember we are here to provide you with the resources you need to kick off your research and that a longer-term timeline when investing has historically proven to be advantageous.

Wide open spaces

If you’ve visited a national park on your summer travels, you likely have a vested interest in protecting our nation’s natural beauty.

Donating to the National Park Foundation (NPF) is the most direct way to support the parks, but you may also be curious which stocks in your portfolio are helping protect treasured landscapes. These publicly traded companies have long histories of supporting National Parks:

The Fourth of July is always a time to celebrate the things we love about our country, but it also reminds us that we each have the power to help lead it to the future we want. And, no matter what particular values drive your investing, the way you deploy and direct your capital can play a part in helping shape the nation and communities you want to see.

Before you go -

We were kind of surprised by this, but apparently America’s most patriotic brand hasn’t changed for two decades. Hint: It has its roots in World War II and featured in the new “Jurassic World” installment.

** FWIW team members own shares of Coca-Cola, Disney, Microsoft, Rivian and Unifi, but only one person on the team grew up in Normal, Illinois.