Part I – Socially Responsible Investing: A Hero’s Journey

“We all carry a quality of inner greatness and the capacity to engage the hero within.”

In Joseph Campbell’s landmark work, “The Power of Myth,” Campbell identifies a theme common to humanity throughout history which he refers to as “The Hero’s Journey.” The hero’s journey usually begins when an individual feels a significant lack in the daily quality of life of a community and its members. This person is then compelled to embark on a journey in search of resolution, resulting in a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to attain some expanded life-invigorating idea or to recover an essential aspect of inner experience that has been lost to the community. In facing his or her fears and limitations, the hero discovers a pathway towards greater personal understanding, which in turn leads to the betterment of the whole community.

This linking of the individual inner transformation with the progress of the community is what makes it a hero’s journey. The hero archetype, far from being an historical myth, is an ever-present dynamic between individual and society. The desire to realize our own hero’s journey is always beckoning. From the courageous act of giving birth, to the dedicated pursuit of world peace, even to the creative action we take via an investment in the marketplace, we all carry a quality of inner greatness and the capacity to engage the hero within us.

The Socially Responsible Investment Roadmap: Integrity + Purpose = Money Maturity

As we ride into the 21st century on a tidal wave of economic uncertainty, traditional ways of organizing society are breaking down and the subsequent search for meaning is expanding. The growth of Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) is in part a reaction against an aggressively promoted materialistic consumer economy. Sophisticated media campaigns tell us that the emptiness we all feel to some degree inside can be filled if we only had more money and stuff. Images and messages bombard us, selling the mirage of easy money via state-sponsored lotteries, online trading accounts and mailboxes stuffed with pre-approved lines of credit. For the unwary consumer these act as the sirens on the shore luring us with the promise of happiness and fulfillment. This has spawned a consumption culture that has yet to come to terms with the societal and environmental consequences of this lifestyle. SRI is an exploration of how to redefine our relationship to money to support a more holistic and sustainable future.

What really motivates us in relationship to money? Does our motivation stem from our own conscious creation or is it borrowed and/or learned from childhood conditioning? What does it take to extract ourselves from the quicksand of naïve belief systems, onto a firm foundation of action consistent with our core values? This is where we begin our own hero’s journey. In another well-known hero’s journey, Dante’s Inferno, Dante’s pilgrimage to know God is NOT a path straight up the mountain but down through the inferno of the ego. It is only by purging himself of the habits of suffering spawned in childhood innocence that Dante is emotionally and psychologically free to be guided to mature adulthood.

The emergence of the SRI industry is in part an outward expression by those investors who are looking deeply within and facing their own inferno. By beginning the investment planning process with an inner look at who we are and how we got this way, we are then free to build an investment strategy that is more aligned with our true heart’s desire. This moves us into action with a higher degree of personal integrity in relationship to our investments. To be sure we must still gain market and product knowledge and apply sound SRI investment practices like social screening, shareholder advocacy and direct community and impact investment. The resources listed at the end of this article can help you in this stage of the journey.

Empowered with a greater sense of integrity, SRI investors are putting their money where their hearts are. Judging from the growth of new money being invested under the SRI banner (estimated $8.7 trillion as of year-end 20171) the hero’s journey is producing results across the triple bottom line: socially, environmentally and economically.

SRI is not only about taking actions in the marketplace via shareholder activism, social screening or community investing. It also requires doing the inner work necessary for greater personal understanding of who you really are and what you are committed to creating in the world with your investment dollars. Your hero’s reward will be greater clarity of purpose, degree of integrity and maturity in relationship to your money.

• The Seven Stages of Money Maturity: Understanding the Spirit and Value of Money in Your Life, by George Kinder. Delacourt Press, 1999
• US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing, www.ussif.org
• American Association of Individual Investors, www.aaii.com

1 US SIF – http://ussif.org/resources/sriguide/srifacts.cfm