A Brief History of SRI

I have great respect for the past. If you don't know where you've come from, you don't know where you're going. I have respect for the past, but I'm a person of the moment. I'm here, and I do my best to be completely centered at the place I'm at, then I go forward to the next place.

— Maya Angelou

The Past

SRI’s modern roots can be traced to the heated political climate of the 1960s, where the convergence of numerous profound social issues — a protracted and unpopular war in Vietnam, a violent civil rights struggle, increasing damage to the environment, and the fight for women’s equality — began to raise the public’s consciousness as never before.

This nascent movement significantly broadened during the 1970s and 1980s, spurred by massive environmental disasters such as Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez, as well as widespread anti-apartheid activism. Many companies came to realize that their long-term future value was intertwined with the health of people and the planet. And investors began to realize these companies offered the potential for both financial and social return.

In 1988, First Affirmative Financial Network (First Affirmative) was formed to serve this emerging movement of responsible investors. First Affirmative is a nationwide network of financial advisors who specialize in SRI and help customers build portfolios aligned with both their values and their financial goals.

In 1990, First Affirmative founded The SRI Conference (later The SRI Conference and Community). The SRI Conference was one of the first gatherings of its kind, bringing socially responsible investors and companies together with the common goal of directing the flow of capital in more positive, healthy, and transformative ways. Over the years, conference attendance has steadily grown, with a 56% increase in attendance between 2011 and 2017 alone.

In 2016, FOLIOfn, Inc. (now Folio Financial) acquired First Affirmative and The SRI Conference as part of the company’s ongoing mission to transform the way people invest for the better. Folio Financial widens the scope of possibilities for responsible investors with new technology, tools, and investment opportunities, including private impact investing.





The Present

Year after year, we have seen the ranks of responsible investors and forward-thinking companies swell, along with a corresponding increase in SRI assets.

The SRI Conference is now the largest gathering of its kind in the world, with record attendance posted in recent years.

Today, SRI assets total $12 trillion, or 25% of U.S. assets under management, with a 38% increase just since 2016.*

Women and millennials — who are on the precipice of controlling the majority of the nation’s wealth — are playing a significant role in this growth. Numerous studies show that both of these demographics are more likely to invest consistent with their personal values.

The explosion in SRI assets can also be attributed to more, and better access to information. Many companies now document their sustainability initiatives, providing a useful set of metrics for investors to consider.

Further, numerous studies continue to confirm what we have believed all along, that there is no tradeoff between SRI and investment performance, instead, a growing body of evidence suggests that investing with an SRI lens may lead to better performance.

*As of 2018. Source: 2018 Report on US Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends, US SIF Foundation

The Future

We believe the future of SRI is brighter than ever before and we are proud to play a leading role in shaping that future.

In 2017, we established The SRI Community to help grow the SRI ecosystem even further, by including all those who have a stake in a healthy, safe, equitable, and prosperous future, and by providing a forum for year-round collaboration and communication. Working together, we can drive ever-increasing capital to companies and organizations working for the common good and deliver investors lasting financial, social, and environmental returns.

Join Us at The SRI Conference