Getting Started with Sustainable Investing

by Amber Miller, CFP®, CSRIC™

As a purchaser of goods and services you have choices: the recycled printer paper or the glossy white, the organic bananas or the regular, ride your bike or drive to work.  As investors, we also have options: sustainable investing versus traditional.

Sustainable investors might make a choice about lowering our carbon footprint by investing in companies with low- to no-carbon emissions.  Or they may choose to not invest in companies that support tobacco, alcohol, gambling, or weapon manufacturing.

To me, sustainable living means supporting the world so that it can be beautiful and clean for generations to come. I drive a Prius. We compost and recycle at home. We use energy efficient light bulbs and electronics. I spend time outdoors breathing the air and enjoying the trees. I invest in sustainably focused and women lead companies. But I don’t have solar panels (not yet!), I don’t ride my bike everywhere and I don’t make my own shampoo. I am doing the things that are right for me at this time.  Sustainable living and investing is not an all-or-nothing thing. We can start small by adding one sustainable investment to your portfolio.  

I have recently passed a rigorous exam and earned the elite status of Certified Sustainable, Responsible Investing Counselor or Certified SRI Counselor. I have been working with clients for years on developing their own sustainable investing philosophies and implementing them. If your interest is piqued, I’d love to tell you more about sustainable investing.  Let’s explore your interests and passions and learn how to get you started.  Let’s have a conversation.

A little more about what inspired Amber Miller, CFP/Sr Financial Planner, to become a Certified SRI Counselor:

Growing up my parents taught my sister and I how to compost food, recycle paper, plastics, aluminum, electronics, and make dinner from scratch (often from the garden or farmer’s market). We grew up playing in the mud in the spring, down at the river in the summer, and sledding in our backyard in the winter. Considering and engaging with our planet was a natural part of our upbringing. 

As a young adult, I continued to consider my impact on the environment in every decision I made. This included starting my own worm composting bin in my apartment, exploring LEED education and certifications as a designer and becoming a supporting member of the Sierra Club.  

In 2008, I was laid off as a designer for Starbucks and started my journey and eventual career change to financial planning. I worked temporarily at a Patagonia store because at the time they were #3 on the Better World Shopping guide’s Best Companies list. At that time, I didn’t know a lot about Patagonia but trusted the opinion of the guide’s researcher enough to take a job there. Working at Patagonia not only introduced me to a network of like-minded individuals who were, like me, on their own journey to do good and be green, but also to a way of thinking about business: up-cycling clothing, engaging and investing with local non-profits and entrepreneurs in environmental endeavors, time off to vote, employee-focused benefits and giving back 1% for the Planet. The company did all of this and more AND the business made money.*

As a planner, I take great pride in connecting my clients with sustainable investment options and look forward to working with fellow Patagonia lovers!

*This is not an endorsement for Patagonia, Sierra Club, LEED Certifications, the Better World Shopping Guide, Greenbuild or any other organization. Rather, I am sharing my own journey towards building a sustainable life and investment portfolio, just as these and many other organizations shared their discoveries with me. I don’t believe there is any one company or person who is doing everything right – but we can all learn from the successes and failures of others


Amber Miller, CFP®, CSRIC™, is a Sr. Financial Planner in the Twin Cities office of The Planning Center, a fee-only financial planning and wealth management firm. Email her at amber@theplanningcenter.com.

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