Let’s talk money. Particularly, your money. Smart investing can provide lucrative opportunities and financial security for the future, but do you know where that money is going? Claire Smith, finance and investment professional, is helping conscious investors place their earnings in equally conscious companies. In 2017, she teamed up with two other vegan investment professionals to launch Beyond Advisors, part of the Beyond Investing vegan finance platform. The result is the world’s first vegan index of the U.S. stock market.
Beyond Investing’s US Vegan Climate Index allows Smith and her partners, Larry Abele and Lee Coates, to make ethical decisions when assessing U.S. large cap stocks and creating portfolios for their clients. The platform is meticulously guided by a set of no-budge standards to determine a company’s impact on both the animals and the environment. The screening is impressively thorough. Any company that partakes in or is associated with animal testing, animal products, animals in sport or entertainment, fossil fuel production, energy production from fossil fuel, military and defense, or “other environmental and human rights” issues is excluded from the index.
The goal is to not only support companies with solid morals; it is also to divest in companies doing harm. Smith described it as “starving them of capital,” because she believes “what gets financed gets done.” She can see a shift in industry, and hopes to expedite this shift by defunding unethical practices and backing more modern and ethical approaches. Examples include cellular agriculture in lieu of animal products, renewable energy instead of fossil fuel, zero-waste materials replacing plastics and other common pollutants, and animal testing alternatives.
Smith holds firm that smart investments do make a tangible difference in the world. According to her firm’s extensive research, $1,000 redirected into the vegan index avoids funding the slaughter of more than a dozen animals annually. Vegan investments lead tofewer less tons of GHG emissions, 260 tons of waste generated, and 7,400 less liters of fresh water used, every year for every $1,000 invested, in comparison to a more traditional, uncensored investment strategy.
Vegan investing is not purely an altruistic endeavor; Smith has proved that it can be a smart financial move as well. Over the course of five years, the US Vegan Climate Index (ticker: VEGAN) consistently secured a higher return percentage than the Solactive US Large Cap Index (a US market benchmark, consisting of the top 500 US companies). In 2018, the VEGAN return is 10%, above the Solactive 8.7%. In 2017, the backtested VEGAN returns soared a full six percent over the Solactive returns.
Activism takes many forms, and it is often most effective when combined with one’s natural expertise and passions. Beyond Investing is Smith’s preferred method of spreading the plant-based movement. She came to adopt a vegetarian diet as a child, which eventually led to full veganism.
A daughter of a retired dairyman, Smith grew up watching farming programs on television with her father in the 1970s. However, she saw traditional practices changing as industrialization paved the way for a more inhumane norm. She spoke to keeping animals indoors and artificial insemination: “It revolted me,” she recalled. One lunchtime, her mother brought their weekly Sunday roast to the table, and Smith blatantly stated, “I’m not eating that.” Twenty years later, after having her daughter and finding that her daughter was lactose intolerant, she became vegan.
“I had this huge empathy for cows,” she explained. As a new mom, she realized the connection between milk and breaking the bond between cows and their offspring. “I didn’t want to be part of a system where cows were exploited in this way,” she said.
Smith admits that there is still a way to go, despite the advancements in plant-based industries. She now lives in Switzerland, where she claims that it is exceedingly difficult to find food that does not contain any butter, milk, or cream. “It’s gotten a bit better in the past few years,” she noted, but she still carries a bag of nuts with her just in case.
Beyond Investing anticipates the launch of an ETF based on its Vegan Climate Index later this year. For more information regarding the business and the Vegan Climate Index, visit the company’s website.