Sustainable Investing Stories and Tips: Song and Sara

Becoming a sustainable investor and conscious consumer is a journey. Song Kim and Sara Shoff are sharing their journey via their podcast F***king Ethical. In this blog post, we will share Song and Sara’s sustainable investing stories and tips.

Song’s Story & Tips

Name: Song Kim

Family background: Born in Korea, immigrated to the US as a child. As an immigrant family, surviving, not investing, was the family priority.

Education focus: Immigration law, recent graduate of business school

Career history: Human rights lawyer who worked for a NYC based non-profit

Investment history: For most of adult life, tuned out when hearing people talk about finance and didn’t consider investing.

Turning point for interest in sustainable finance: Realizing that to stop human rights violations from happening in supply chains, she’d have to learn the language of money and capitalism.

Current investment portfolio: Checking and savings accounts

Sustainable investing focus: Not funding private prisons, supporting local communities

Top sustainable investing tips:

  • Start small. Song’s starting small meant joining the one locally owned bank in her city, a Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI). Banking there isn’t as convenient as banking with a big bank. However, it’s worth it to Song to feel good about my banking.
  • Use existing sustainable investing research tools. Song has been doing my research for when she’s ready to start doing further investing. She’s a fan of the Invest Your Values tools provided by the non-profit As You Sow.

Sara’s Story & TIPS

Name: Sara Shoff

Family background: Grew up in the mountains in California where she learned to love nature and an active lifestyle 

Education focus: Environmental management, recent graduate of business school

Career history: Peace Corps in Senegal, accidentally ended up working in finance – doing environmental impact assessments for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in DC 

Investment history: When Sara started working in DC, she knew very little about finance. She had a steep learning curve to understand OPIC’s investment structures. Her boyfriend at the time was a personal finance junkie. He encouraged her to open a brokerage account and begin investing. 

Turning point for interest in sustainable finance: Two turning points: 1) frustrated by money and time wasted in grant funding projects she saw while doing Peace Corps in Senegal 2) while working at OPIC, realizing how her work, interests in more ethical companies, and personal savings and investments can come together.

Current investment portfolio: Retirement portfolio where a sustainable fund option is unavailable. She has also invested in a few environmental, social, and governance (ESG) exchange-traded funds (ETFs), bond ETFs, and small investments through Robinhood.

Sustainable investing focus: Companies that take responsibility for their actions. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are the most sustainable, or least problematic. However, Sara likes to see companies respond to serious stakeholder complaints, look internally, and respond with action. She likes companies that have made transitions to more sustainable practices over the years, and do not promise or guarantee that they have no internal problems.

Top sustainable investing tips:

  • Use the investment app Robinhood because it is interesting and easy to use. It also allows Sara to buy fractional shares (parts of a share). Fractional shares allow Sara to spread her investment over more companies.
  • Participate in shareholder advocacy. If you own a company’s share, vote in annual shareholder meetings to push the company to be more sustainable.

Song & SaRA’S Tip

Song and Saa at Song’s citizenship ceremony

Song and Sara both advise new sustainable investors to not be afraid to mess up. If you invest in a fund or share and later learn that it is not aligned with your values, you can sell it later.

Sara and Song share information and opinions about value-based investing in episodes 3-5 of F***king Ethical.