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7 Apps for Socially Responsible Investing

Barbara Friedberg

Investing in companies that speak to your values.

Socially responsible investing continues to expand in popularity as a way to invest with your values. From socially responsible mutual and exchange-traded funds to robo advisors and mobile apps, there's easy access to this investing trend. Widely considered a newer strategy, socially conscious investing began in biblical times when ethical investing was mandated by Jewish law. Several hundred years later, the Quran established investing laws based on Islamic law, sometimes referred to as Sharia investing. Popular among millennials and older investors as well, here are seven apps that put socially responsible investment firms at your fingertips.

M1 Finance

M1 Finance has grown into an investing buffet with stock, fund, robo advisor and hundreds of pre-made portfolios, which the company refers to as pies. For the socially conscious investor, it's easy to download the app, open an account, tap the research option and choose one of M1 Finance's socially responsible investing pies. These pre-made portfolios are ideal for investors seeking an easy way to invest in socially responsible corporations. The first pre-made investment pie is called Responsible Investing. It includes four SRI funds managed by Nuveen and offers more than a 1% dividend yield. The M1 finance expert pie International Responsible Investing adds Nuveen international SRI funds to the domestic option and currently offers a 1.3% dividend yield. Within the M1 Finance app, investors can choose SRI-qualified companies and set up their own pie, similar to a personalized ETF.

Axos Invest

Axos Invest, formerly known as WiseBanyan, offers a free basic robo advisor. Within its Portfolio Plus Featured Portfolios, investors can access SRI portfolios targeting several categories. The SRI options include selections that focus on gender empowerment and sustainable energy, each creating a niche segment of SRI companies. One portfolio called Wonder Women targets firms with greater female representation within senior leadership. This choice invests in SPDR SSGA Gender Diversity ETF (SHE). The Clean Energy portfolio invests in companies that produce energy from solar, wind and other renewable sources. The clean energy option is represented by the iShares Global Clean Energy ETF (ICLN) and the First Trust Nasdaq Clean Edge Green Energy ETF (QCLN).

Ellevest

Andrew Bellak, CEO of Stakeholders Capital in Massachusetts, recommends Ellevest as one of the best socially responsible investing apps. The Ellevest robo advisor targets women investors, although it is quite suitable for men, too. Ellevest Impact Portfolios invest in three sections of the SRI environment: companies with women in leadership, firms with higher standards for sustainability and ethical practices and companies that provide loans to support community services. The Ellevest Impact Portfolios not only include SRI criteria but also asset class diversity. Its asset classes include funds such as the Pax Ellevate Global Women's Leadership Fund (PXWIX) and the Access Community Capital Fund (ACCSX).

OpenInvest

Also recommended by Bellak, OpenInvest is a public benefit corporation that aims to produce a public benefit. Similar to other robo advisors, OpenInvest offers the typical risk aligned investment portfolios with tax-loss harvesting and a flat management fee of 0.5%. The OpenInvest app only includes impact investing firms from the S&P 500 universe in its portfolios and chooses the companies after careful screening of socially conscious investment criteria. Unlike its competitors, the OpenInvest portfolios are comprised of individual SRI company stocks, not funds. The OpenInvest categories include firms supportive of LGBTQ employees and companies invested in ethical supply chains, while avoiding big tobacco and fossil fuel producers, among other criteria.

SoFi Invest

The SoFi Invest platform is rapidly expanding to cover the financial lending, money and investing sphere. The SoFi app is highly rated and serves the investing platform. Rachel Rosenzweig, a spokesperson at SoFi, says SoFi Invest's Doing Good collection encompasses SRI stocks and ETFs. While SoFi's Doing Good collection of companies is less comprehensive than some of the competitors, the app, with its zero management fee and negligible $10 required minimum investment amount, makes it an ideal starter option. Doing Good includes a collection of pre-screened socially responsible companies such as Oracle (ORCL), Regional Management Corp. (RM), Adobe (ADBE), Texas Instruments (TXN) and 3M Co. (MMM).

Personal Capital

Personal Capital is an automated investment advisor known for its suite of free money and investment management tools. The firm uses ESG ratings to evaluate companies in its SRI portfolios. The SRI portfolios include the same underlying strategies as its core Personal Strategies, which include six major asset classes. Next, the firm uses a basket of individual ESG-optimized stocks for exposure to the mega-, large- and mid-cap segments of the market. Small-caps stocks are represented with ETFs. The International Equities portfolio includes a set of ESG ETFs that represent this market sector. The commodities exposure includes a fund with reduced oil and gas exposure.

Betterment

Betterment, one of the first robo advisors launched an SRI portfolio in 2017, responding to consumer demand for socially conscious investing for a low fee. To create the Betterment socially conscious investment strategy, the firm analyzed all available low-cost SRI ETFs. Betterment found that large-cap U.S. stocks and emerging stock asset classes could easily be replaced with SRI-focused funds. Betterment chose to leave the other asset classes since the firm didn't find socially responsible options that were liquid or available at low enough fees. The ETFs that Betterment uses in its SRI portfolios are the iShares MSCI KLD 400 Social ETF (DSI), the iShares MSCI USA ESG Select ETF (SUSA) and iShares ESG MSCI EM ETF (ESGE). The Betterment mobile app was also redesigned this year, making it easier for users to enroll and track their Betterment portfolios.

Top apps for socially responsible investing:

-- M1 Finance

-- Axos Invest

-- Ellevest

-- OpenInvest

-- SoFi Invest

-- Personal Capital

-- Betterment



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