5 Tips for Talking About Sustainable Investing

So you’ve seen study after study showing that investors are overwhelmingly interested in sustainable, ESG, and impact investing, but you think it might just be hype because your own clients aren’t asking about it. Right?

Well, I have some news for you- most clients aren’t asking about ESG and impact because they don’t know it’s a possibility. The studies linked above explain to the participants what sustainable investing is before asking if investors are interested. If you want to know if your clients are interested, you’ll need to do the same.

You wouldn’t expect a client to come into your office and request a 10% allocation to emerging markets, or a portfolio with a beta of 0.9 to the S&P, right? Well you also can’t expect clients to know that having a suitable portfolio that resonates with their values is an option. As the financial professional, you must educate them on what their options are.

If you don’t talk to your clients about this, someone else will. But I’m not here to instill the fear of losing a client.

Here are five practical tips so you can get ahead of the game and have that conversation with your clients, even if you don’t currently offer a sustainable, ESG, or impact investing solution in your practice.

1. You don’t have to know everything to start the conversation.

You also don’t need to have an ESG / Sustainable / SRI / Impact Investing offering yet. You do have to be prepared to create an offering in the event your clients are interested.

2. Get educated on the basics.

  • Start here to get up to speed on definitions of common terms, including Impact Investing, ESG, SRI, Sustainable Investing, and more. If you prefer to watch a video, go here .
  • Learn a bit about the history of the Socially Responsible Investing movement. Even if you plan to offer ESG, not SRI portfolios.
  • Take a fundamentals class through USSIF (bonus- it counts as CFP CE). For a deeper dive, you can check out the College for Financial Planning’s SRI designation .
  • 3. Keep learning and stay up to date.

  • (Shameless self-promotion)- stay up to date on the latest news in the space with a 5 minute weekly read with the free Connected Investing newsletter .
  • Seek out sustainable investing conferences to learn from experts and meet practitioners. Conferences to consider: SRI Conference , Total Impact , SOCAP .
  • Look for ESG, Sustainable, and Impact Investing content and traditional financial services conferences. If your favorite conference needs a speaker in this topic area, send them my way .
  • 4. Have the conversation!

    Below are some sample script ideas for you to consider:

  • Don’t have an offering yet? “Our firm knows there is an increasing demand for sustainable investing. We’ve done some initial research and think we can offer a solution in this area, if we find our clients are interested. We are asking some of our trusted clients for feedback. Is this something you would be interested in learning more about or investing in?”
  • Have an initial offering? “We’re happy to now offer [NAME] solution for our clients that are interested in investing in companies with a lower carbon footprint/ aligning their portfolios with their values/ investing in companies that are thinking about long term sustainability and treating workers well. You’ll hear about it in our newsletter/ blog/ webinar. Would you like to add this to the agenda for our next meeting? / Would you like to know more about this for your investments?
  • Have an offering but haven’t seen much adoption? Let’s talk. This is a place I can help.
  • 5. Ditch the lingo.

    When you’re speaking with clients, don’t use financial services lingo. In the same way that most clients don’t know what standard deviation means, most don’t know what ESG stands for; this Allianz study shows only 15% know that term.

    You’ve got this! Now go have that conversation and bring another level of depth and connection to your client relationships!

    Related: Can Indexing Have Impact?