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Ethical investing: The Obama effect

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Mr. Wood: I don’t think we’re going to know for some time, really, how the Obama administration is going to change what the responsible investment community is concerned with. We’ve certainly seen a lot more talk about corporate transparency, about a sterner hand over corporate disclosure. These are issues of longstanding concern for responsible investors. We’ve seen, slowly, an increase in attention toward the successes of community development finance institutions, which seem to have outperformed their larger peers in the banking industry.

Mr. Obama wants to double alternative-energy production in three years. What does that mean to green investors?

Robinson: Certainly, the lowest-cost, lowest-carbon renewable-energy producers are going to be beneficiaries no matter what happens. So, if you look carefully at the solar and wind and geothermal spaces on the production side, they will benefit – and already have benefited, frankly – from things going on in regional areas, in states, in cities.... There was a wonderful stimulus part of [the congressional spending package] that extends the life of tax credits, which may get turned into cash rebates, based on the way it’s going. So on the production side, it’s very positive. And the other side, what we’d call the low-hanging fruit or the energy-efficiency or conservation side, as well, they’re going to be beneficiaries, too.

You mentioned that community-based financial institutions had done better than their larger brethren. How much better?

Wood: They weren’t packaging off their mortgages. They tended to use 30-year fixed rate mortgages instead of adjustable-rate mortgages that would explode on people. They’re notorious for doing due diligence on the people they lend to, and they’ve proven there is a model for lending to low-income people that is sound. That’s the upside. The downside is that the communities they’ve lent to are going to be extremely affected by this downturn.

Are there specific companies that will thrive?

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