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Cousteau’s Next Adventure: A New ETF With a Charitable Twist


The objective is simple: ''to do good and do well," renowned environmentalist Philippe Cousteau tells me from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. This morning Cousteau and AdvisorShares launched the Global Echo Fund (GIVE), pairing Wall Street with the lofty aspirations of Green Street. This one ETF is already being touted as "the wave of the future."

The benefactor of one-third of its management fee is Cousteau's Global Echo Foundation, which tout's the new partnership on its website as being "the first multi-manager ETF with an absolute return and sustainable investment mandate." Officially, the foundation will get 40 basis points of the fee, which works out to $4,000 per $1 million.

"First and foremost, it has to be a successful fund," Cousteau says. "Our interests are aligned, I want this to be a successful fund because the more successful the fund is, the more money goes to the foundation."

For Noah Hamman, the CEO of AdvisorShares, this ETF marks the latest in a growing stable of actively managed ETFs, which in this case, will begin with $25 million divided between four different managers deploying four different styles. While previous cause-minded, or so-called "socially responsible investing" portfolios have sacrificed performance, Hamman says this fund's mandate is "sustainable investing," which sees names like Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), Hain Celestial (HAIN) and Ford (F) among its top holdings."You can look at something as simple as the iPad, and what that has done to cut down on paper usage and what that means," Hamman explains, "or companies like Google. They're being very proactive in trying to find clean energy solutions and make a more positive impact on how they're running their business."

On the foundation side, the 31-year-old grandson of Jacques Cousteau explains that his work is focused on three key areas; environmental education & conservation, women & children's issues, and micro enterprise & social entrepreneurship. Like anyone involved with fundraising and non-profits, Cousteau will surely tell you that the recession and sluggish economy have made it more difficult than ever to raise the proceeds needed to address some of the world's big issues, and forced the need for fresh thinking and new relationships.

"I have dealt with innovation my whole life," Cousteau says, "and we need to embrace sustainability in the marketplace if we are going to address some of the big global problems that were facing. We can't do it in silos like we have in the past."

The Global Echo Fund made its trading debut on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday May 24th.