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SRI Stock Options (Part 3)

Over the years, a fair number of my clients have rolled their eyes and slumped in their chairs when presented with so-called ‘ethical’ investment options. The institutions in Canada that market investments to the public…banks, credit unions, insurance companies, mutual funds…only a small fraction are vigorously responding to the Canadian public’s desire to rein in corporate behaviour. To make matters worse, I don’t think they see a buck in serving the Canadian market for socially responsible investment. So when measured against European and American markets, this is not exactly fertile ground for ethical investors.

If share ownership is something appropriate for a portion of your savings, but the thought of investing in a mutual fund that owns tailings ponds and slag heaps disturbs you, then I sympathize. But don’t despair. If you do your homework, you can still uncover alternatives to the fossil fuel guzzlers and financiers that dominate the Canadian economy. Here are three more Canadian companies that shouldn’t make you feel like you’ve sold your soul to help fund your retirement.

MACQUARIE POWER and INFRASTRUCTURE INCOME FUND (MPT.UN-TSX) Macquarie invests in essential infrastructure businesses, which typically generate sustainable long-term cash flow as a result of consistent demand for the basic, everyday services they provide. Macquarie’s portfolio currently includes gas cogeneration, wind, hydro and biomass power generation facilities, representing approximately 350 MW of installed capacity. They are also developing a 20 MW solar power project in Ontario that is expected to start commercial operations in June 2011. These guys are not in the oil business and their commitment to renewable energy development is not a sideline activity for them, it is the core of their business. They currently pay a monthly distribution that amounts to about 9% annually.

SUNOPTA (SOY-TSX) SunOpta specializes in the sourcing, processing and distribution of natural and organic food products, including non-GMO soy, corn, sunflower and whole grains. They make soymilk, rice beverages, fruit snacks, health bars, dry roasted snacks, juices and more. They also supply retailers with teas, seeds, grains, pulses, coffee, cocoa, natural personal care products and earth-friendly household goods. SunOpta also has subsidiary companies that process and recycle environmentally friendly industrial minerals and produce organic abrasives for cleaning.

WESTPORT INNOVATIONS (WPT-TSX) Vancouver-based Westport Innovations Inc. is a leading developer of environmental technologies that help vehicles operate on clean-burning alternative fuels. They develop high-performance, fuel-efficient internal combustion engines and fuel systems for gaseous fuels such as natural gas, biomethane, and hydrogen. Westport creates complete solutions for the transition of commercial vehicle fleets from oil-based fuels to natural gas or biogas, and they are working with global automotive leaders to incorporate their technologies into future opportunities for clean vehicles.

The Canadian Business for Social Responsibility had this to say about Westport:  “Westport Innovations is working to integrate social and environmental benefits into its core business operations. For example, while its technology is evidence of a commitment to sustainability, its research and development facilities are designed and operated to minimize the environmental impact of engine testing. Westport Innovations demonstrates the win-win spirit of sustainability—working to create business value while adding value to the environment and society. This is what the future of business leadership is all about.”

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