GreenMoney’s 25 Year Journey

By Cliff Feigenbaum, founder and managing editor, GreenMoney Journal

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Twenty-five years. Is that possible? Have I been publishing the GreenMoney Journal for 25 years?

When I realized that 2017 was upon us, and that 25 years had passed, I knew it was time to take a look “back” to the future that GreenMoney has been striving to help create since 1992.

So it’s time to re-explore our roots, although, truth be told, I’m more comfortable writing about the future than about the past. GreenMoney’s “mission” has always been about where sustainable business and responsible investing is headed rather than about where it has been. In this special Anniversary issue we will explore “The Next 25 Years”, but before we get to that, let’s go back to the beginning.

And of course it starts with a few questions…

What were the roots of all of this for me? Was it the wildlife programs on TV like Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” or the “Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” or the Ecology flags we pasted on our bumpers in the early 70s? Or was it that public service ad on TV of the canoeing Native American tearing up as he looked at the litter and pollution along the river. Or maybe it was those smog alerts in the early 70s in LA where I grew up.

Fast forward to the late 80s; I had been a member of both Greenpeace and the Cousteau Society for many years, but was far from being an environmental activist. I recall a lunch break from my job when I read the latest Greenpeace newsletter and I thought to myself – “can things really be that bad”? I continued to read more about corporate malfeasance and environmental degradation, not to mention the growing perils to animals and other species.

A few years later I was working at a hospital in Spokane, WA. After I chose my 401k plan I soon discovered, as I was trying to make more “informed” financial decisions, that the mutual funds had numerous tobacco stocks in their holdings. Wow! At a healthcare institution! So I took my finding to the CFO, who said he could not do anything about it. As I left his office he said “Oh, by the way, don’t tell anybody about this, because I don’t think they’ll care…” There were over 1000 employees and I thought they would like to know. At that time a good friend of mine happened to be a skilled writer and editor; we decided after much research to write an article on socially responsible investing (SRI) for the local Journal of Business. Much to our surprise they published our first draft.

A sign. A moment of clarity. It was the first of many events over the years that inspired me to keep moving forward. Within a year I had left the hospital job to begin talking, writing and eventually launching GreenMoney Journal (GMJ). The first quarterly issue was published in August 1992.

I also began attending a variety of business and investing conferences around the US and Canada, including The “SRI in the Rockies” Conference (which I have attended 26 years in a row) where I met the SRI greats, from whom I learned extensively. Most memorable was meeting someone I still call a friend, Hal Brill, who years later would end up co-writing a book with me. I was also giving many talks to spread the SRI message around Spokane, mostly at the Peace and Justice Center. There I met my second and long time editor, Ted Ketcham and his wife Diane, who have been the guiding “tone” in the GreenMoney articles over the last 20 years.

As I began publishing, the idea of selling ad space came into clarity when a potential advertiser asked us to take ads. Yes, the money component. The content, the printing, the paper, the mailing list – were all elements to publishing and sales that I had no clue about. Though I lacked direct publishing experience, it turned out I was good at all aspects because I really believed in what we were doing. Also some years earlier, I had earned a Business Management degree from Whitworth University where people of faith helped guide me through life’s challenges. Through Whitworth, I got to travel the world a bit, as well.

In 1993, another one of those inspirational moments of “clarity” occurred when well-known author and activist Paul Hawken mentioned GreenMoney Journal by name in his article on Sustainable Business in the much-respected Utne Reader magazine. Wow! I had no idea it was coming, but it brought with it a tremendous boost. The quarterly publishing continued with more readers, more feedback, and more advertisers.

“…newsletters like GreenMoney, are drawing up new codes of conduct for corporate life that integrate social, ethical, and environmental principles.”

– Paul Hawken, author and environmentalist

As GreenMoney started to take shape, there were lots of questions from friends about what we were doing. I knew it was the “right” thing for me to be spending a considerable amount of my time creating this new publication. The driving force within me was about “helping people make informed financial decisions”. Many friends did not understand, as the national popularity of “entrepreneurship” had not taken off just yet. So they had 9-5 jobs and I did not. That led to many disappointments for them and for me when I was unavailable.

A different sort of “clarity” came in 1995 when I was approached by someone who wanted to takes us “online.” I hardly knew what he meant, but yes, that is where the GreenMoney.com website was born. Though we worked together for several more years it was not a great partnership. In fact, he attempted to trademark my “GreenMoney Journal” name and take the website. I am not one to admit failure but that was a bad call on my part and I learned an expensive lesson: Just as you pick your business partners carefully you must also pick your relationship partners carefully. You can’t always see the pitfalls ahead. A marriage that started that year also did not last.

I was on the road a lot meeting interesting people and expanding my knowledge on a variety of topics to cover in the publication. I vividly recall meeting a hero of mine, Jane Goodall. In truth I felt her eyes looked deeper into my soul then I had ever experienced. Some years later I even had lunch with one of Jacques Cousteau’s son, Jean-Michael.

1997 was a huge year for GreenMoney. My editor for the first five years, Tom Kliewer became too busy with his full time job and a new baby at home, so he called to resign. Luckily, Ted Ketcham, whom I mentioned before, was available. He, along with wife Diane (pictured), have served as editors ever since. Ted’s experience as an English teacher helped me develop more confidence in writing articles and even doing some of the editing.

Late in 1997, “the call”, as I refer to it, came in. The call, that really changed GreenMoney’s trajectory was from Bloomberg Press in NYC. They wanted to know if I was interested in writing a book on SRI. After a slight hesitation, I responded with “I am not sure we can work together because you believe first in profits. I believe first in principles, then in profits.” Their acquisitions editor’s response: “We see this coming and we want to publish a book on it first. Since you know more than we do – we won’t edit very heavily”.

I thought about it carefully and agreed while panicking inside. I had never written a book. Clueless, I reached out to good friends who had written a book, Hal Brill and his father Jack. Both were SRI financial professionals who had written for several publications and whose writing I admired. They said a tentative yes. Later that year Hal and I attended a conference on Business and Spirituality in Mexico along with sustainable business leader Hazel Henderson. Hazel agreed to meet with us and discuss her process of writing a book. She had written several by then. In her ever graceful but straightforward way Hazel said, “It is yours to do in the world, now go to it”. Period.

So began the book-writing odyssey that eventually led us to New York City and Bloomberg HQ, once the book, “Investing with Your Values” had been published in May of 1999. Let me also mention that we were honored to recruit well-known SRI pioneer Amy Domini to write the foreword to the book. I bought a very nice suit for that trip. We did a variety of necessary book promotion efforts and a paperback came out the following year.

Over the summer of 2000 I made a big life change as my daughter graduated from high school and went off to college, so I decided to move to Santa Fe, NM. Where I still live today.

From that time forward Hal, Jack and I each grew so busy with success in our own businesses that we never got back to writing another book, though we still remain friends. The next few years were full of travel and publishing GreenMoney quarterly to a growing readership of 10,000.

Of course we all experienced the shock of 9/11 in 2001, but I was fortunate to be with my SRI family at The SRI in the Rockies Conference in Tucson. It was good to be with friends after such an unfathomable event. I do consider the people in SRI industry to be my family.

Time moves forward, especially publishing quarterly. We are always looking out a year ahead, planning what to leave in and what to leave out. The 10-year anniversary of GreenMoney came and went rapidly. As is often the case with anniversaries, it was time for more change. We really needed our design to look as good as we sounded. The team from Ranch 7 Creative approached me about a change to revive our logo at no cost if we didn’t like what they did. But it was a fantastic change that really started us on a new drive to better our overall design. That ethic has been very strong ever since. We still use their logo design today, and we worked together on updating our design for many years.

Another new chapter in GreenMoney’s history emerged as the economic downturn hit. We saw it in our ad sales. Most of our advertiser’s budgets fell quite rapidly, and we are mostly ad supported. During that time I also began working with a local designer here in Santa Fe, Michelle Mosser of Grace Communications (who we still work with today) on developing an eNewsletter in addition to the print. As our 20th Anniversary approached in 2012 we asked ourselves what did we want to accomplish next. The answer was to have more impact and more frequency and better profitability. All of that led to eventually ending our print issues and moving online to publish a high-quality monthly eJournal, as the publishing world was really changing. This was a very trying decision.

In 2012, traveling began to lessen as the relationship with my girlfriend Julie really began to grow, as well as the new on-going demands of the monthly eJournal, which in truth I underestimated. One of the highlights of that year, was having Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques, write an article for GreenMoney. It was quite an honor to draw the past forward. One of those “moments” of clarity on what we can really achieve. Later that year our exciting 20th Anniversary issues featured some very influential names in the world of sustainability who shared their outlooks on “The Next 20 Years.”

After 20 years and a lot of planning, we moved from print to the monthly eJournal in January 2014. What I thought would be a smooth transition turned out to be even more demanding in the fast-changing technology world. As we have all experienced over the last decade, technology “never”sleeps. The work continues as we strive diligently to improve every issue that goes to a readership of over 25,000.

Through the years there had been numerous awards, including several nominations for The SRI Service Award, and recently being named to the 2017 List of Leaders in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability by CR magazine. With an ever-increasing sense of growing influence and impact for “GreenMoney” our mission statement became just two words “Influence Capital.” That is basically all we do 24/7. Also “socially responsible” investing was being redefined as sustainable responsible impact investing. The new SRI.

In 2014, we shifted toward theme issues like “Millennials and Investing” followed by “Women and Investing” and “Faith and Investing” three groups that are taking to SRI in droves. The SRI movement was actually founded by Churches and is still active in the faith community. We also launched an annual issue on Sustainable Agriculture since, food is essential to all.

As is Clean water. In 2015 we took on the topic of water, for which Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote a piece on “The Future of Water.” Another outstanding contributor to GreenMoney was Mellody Hobson of Ariel Investments in Chicago. Mellody wrote for our first “Women and Investing” issue.

That August we did a very impactful issue on Native Americans. The issue featured the incredible photography of a young, Tlingit Alaskan Native American woman, Zoe Urness, who has since gone on to win many national awards. It is always fun to be there to help someone launch their career. That year marked our 100th issue as well. Wow.

Our designer, Michelle Mosser, is never one to let us rest on our laurels. We introduced an all-videos issue in 2016. Readership response was outstanding, so we did it again in 2017. Also the “Future of Energy” felt like something we should look at “and what an issue it was! We followed that with an issue on “Green Building” which turned out to be our most viewed issue ever.

2017 brings many opportunities to look ahead as well as to reflect on our 25 years. It was also time, (actually past time), to upgrade our website – which we undertook in the first half of the year – so you will now find a new vastly upgraded GreenMoney.com experience – this continual work in progress will take GreenMoney to the next chapter(s).

Speaking of which, as we were finishing this July/Aug issue we received some very big news – another moment of “clarity” on what GreenMoney can accomplish. We are excited to announce that Mary Barra, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Motors Company is writing on “The Next 25 Years of Transportation and Sustainability” in our Sept/Oct issue. Yes, Wow.

Let me close with a Thank You to our readers, writers, contributors and advertisers for making GreenMoney what it is today.

 

Article by Cliff Feigenbaum, Founder and Manager Editor, GreenMoney Journal and GreenMoney.com. Mr. Feigenbaum is co-author of “Investing with Your Values: Making Money and Making a Difference”. (Bloomberg Press 1999 and New Society Publishers, 2000). In 2013 Cliff was named “One of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business” by Trust Across America. In 2015 and 2017, Mr. Feigenbaum was named one of the “Leaders in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability” by Corporate Responsibility (CR) magazine. He has also received numerous nominations for the SRI Service Award.

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