Values-Based Strategies

When the client turned to Syntrinsic, its board members could not agree upon its investment strategy. Some board members thought that the organization’s investments should align with its mission by avoiding corporations that contradicted the organization’s purpose. Other board members strongly felt the organization should maximize returns through the broadest investment universe in order to potentially earn more and thus better support the mission. Both parties cared deeply about the organization’s social impact. They asked Syntrinsic to help them assess their options and choose a course of action.

Syntrinsic provided a framework for organizing the discussion around two themes: the available investment universe and the organization’s core values.

First, we reviewed how the universe of available values-based investments has evolved substantially. While once focused primarily on negative screens on certain sectors or companies, the concept has evolved to include proactive screens, economic development and church loan notes, and an array of equity and debt venture investments and private investment vehicles. Understanding the universe enabled the Board to more realistically assess what was—and was not—possible.

Syntrinsic then led the organization through a process of identifying which values best represented the organization’s objectives, a challenging task. Even faith institutions and strongly connected families possess stakeholders with different interpretations of common values and conflicting desires regarding how to apply those interpretations.

Syntrinsic facilitated robust and often intense discussions about core values, keeping the emphasis firmly centered on the organization’s mission and community dynamics. As an impartial third-party partner, we were able to ask questions and challenge core assumptions in a way that staff and board members could not. This independence enabled Syntrinsic to help the organization define common values and the extent to which the investments should strive to reflect those values. Syntrinsic was the guide; the values and the investment strategy belonged to the organization.