While a return on an investment is still vital, the bottom line doesn’t control how an investor evaluates his or her assets as much as it once did. Investing in profitable technology and satisfying a desire to do good aren’t mutually exclusive.
Ventures such as SolarCure, a company that connects businesses and investors to solar panels and veteran support, are making a case for the growing field of impact investing to become a permanent part of investors’ portfolios.
SolarCure is a platform that links corporate sponsors with solar panels that are more than energy absorbers. The investors, similar to highway donation projects, “adopt-a-solar-panel.” And all of these sponsored panels are later installed at buildings connected to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“I designed SolarCure to create wealth while making companies into a force of good,” SolarCure CEO Raymond Saluccio said. “We've just re-branded a company as eco-friendly and veteran-friendly.”
This trend in social responsibility investing is growing. U.S. assets in companies like SolarCure increased from $639 billion in 1995 to $2.71 trillion in 2007, according to GIIRS, a ratings and analytics nonprofit that tracks impact investing and is funded as a partnership among Prudential, Deloitte, the Rockerfeller Foundation, and USAID. That asset growth represents a 324 percent increase over those 12 years.
Even after the initial meteoric rise capital involved in impact investing continues to make gains. J.P. Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network of 125 major fund managers, foundations, and development finance institutions said in a 2014 report $46 billion in impact investments were under management, a nearly 20 percent increase from the prior year.
Though a rapidly growing field, investors struggle to find suitable and veritable companies that can fulfill missions while still making that return on investment.
Investors are finding it daunting to sort “through the host of impacts and corresponding range of investment instruments,” according to a study from RBC Global Asset Management.
A 2013 report from the World Economic Forum Investors Industries indicates, “Traditional financial institutions can get comfortable with impact investing, given the right framing and the right champions within the companies.”
Enter SolarCure, which Saluccio thinks can be that champion. The company’s name draws on the sun’s restorative powers, and its mission lives up to that promise. SolarCure attempts to not only solve the impact investing problem, but also issues involving global warming and unemployed veterans.
SolarCure works with organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legions, who often aid our returning soldiers in securing and maintaining jobs. The jobless rate for all veterans is 6.6 percent, with 9 percent among post 2001-veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Companies invest in a solar panel system that provides renewable energy to a veterans’ facility for at least 25 years. According to the SolarCure website, the money veterans’ groups save in energy costs allows the nonprofits to devote more resources and better focus on their veterans-based mission.
Saluccio says its savvy companies like SolarCure and its investors that will answer challenges facing the 21st century.
“It's a paradigm shift. We've always had this grasp of how to make a profit, but the social entrepreneur looks to make purposeful profit. Look back at the history of Wall Street and the Industrial Revolution,” he says. “We definitely know how to make a profit, and we definitely know how to ruin the planet. Mankind has left this footprint of destruction, but I'm trying to erase that footprint, while also making a profit and helping corporate America do good."
Ultimately, Saluccio wants the flip the script in what motivates people to invest—purpose in the same breath as profit. His way to accomplish that end, he says, will still yield the end result of profitability, but investors can feel better what their money is going toward.
"Traditional business nature is 'profit before purchase.' I'm just trying to put profit and purpose on the same ground,” he says.
“If the byproduct of every company's income success was a force of good, we wouldn't be faced with the problems we have now. You wouldn't see polluted waters, and you wouldn't see smog. Our children would have clean, safe places to play, and there would be more green energy being created. If I can make every company a force of good while I make them a profit, I can reverse that.”
For its work so far, the New Jersey chapter of Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve awarded SolarCure with the Seven Seals Award for “pledging its support of veteran employees serving in all branches of the military reserves.”
SolarCure’s mission aligns with the Obama administration’s stated goal of reducing the country’s dependence on foreign energy. Since Obama took office, the country has reached a 20-year low on foreign oil imports, according to the White House. The president’s mindset is to both economically—through new American jobs—and ecologically benefit the United States, and Saluccio is on board.
"Business can make America’s energy independent. If every company can put a drop in the bucket, it will eventually get full, and all our energy will become green. We'll be energy independent, and corporate America can get us there. I'm just trying to do it one solar panel at a time,” he says.
For more information on SolarCure visit its website.