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Interested in learning how you can benefit the world around you as you build your portfolio? Find out what SRI, ESG and impact investing are and how you can add them to your investment strategy.

There’s an old adage about voting with your dollars that refers to the impact people can make through how they decide to spend their money. How you decide to invest can be an excellent example of this. Ethical investing can not only benefit your bottom line, but the rest of the world as well.

In this article, you’ll learn what ethical investing is, its growth in popularity, and some of the best green investment strategies and opportunities.

What is ethical investing?

Ethical investing is the act of making investment decisions based, at least in part, on moral factors. Whereas much traditional investing is solely concerned with which assets will rise in value to generate the most positive economic outcomes, ethical investors put a higher premium on what is morally and ethically correct, sometimes at the expense of the bottom line.

Tip: Ethical investing can go by many names, including “socially conscious investing,” “green investing”, and “moral investing.”

The history of ethical investing dates back hundreds of years. Religious beliefs as far back as the 1800s prohibited investment in anything that supported activities such as gambling, slavery and prostitution. In the mid-20th century, ethical investing grew even more as people questioned the necessity of war and the companies that helped facilitate it.

Ethical investing is on the rise again as a new generation of investors and their growing consciousness around health and sustainability enter the market.

There are three main types of socially responsible investing: ESG, SRI and impact. These investments place varying degrees of focus on ethical activity.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing

ESG investing is trading that takes environmental, social and governance factors into account (more on those below) when making investment decisions.

While there is a consideration for ethical aspects when making ESG investments, these are more to determine a company or fund’s profitability, and less so their ability to positively impact the planet.

Socially responsible investing (SRI)

The next step on the ethical investing scale is SRI.

Those who practice SRI, look at moral and ethical issues to approve or eliminate potential investment opportunities they do or do not want to support.

These can be based on a variety of political and religious beliefs and life experiences. Again, more on this later.

Impact investing

Impact investing is theoretically the most altruistic form of ethical investing.

With impact investing, traders put an emphasis on going out of their way to invest in organisations and projects they believe will make a positive impact in the world, even at the expense of profit.

What are the 3 pillars of corporate sustainability?

There are three major factors that influence ESG investing, known as the three pillars of corporate sustainability: environmental, social and governance.

The 3 pillars of corporate sustainability

Environmental: These factors include everything from testing animals and reliability on single-use plastics to poor pollution control, commitment to sustainable energy, and combatting climate change overall. For example, an ethical investor might not invest in a company or fund that backs the use of coal or petroleum.

Social: These factors are becoming more prevalent today due to social media and other digital technology shining light on global issues. Social considerations can be anything from human rights issues, exploitation of the workforce and business associated with tobacco and gambling entities.

Governance : These factors relate to the leadership of an organization or entity. This could include everything from how diverse a company’s leadership team is to how much C-suite executives are paid and how transparent they are. Ethical investors will often avoid funds that invest in companies with poor governance.

The growing popularity of the SRI ETF sector

There are a few reasons why SRI exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have become a more popular investment option in recent years. One reason is that a younger generation of investors is more conscious of issues that affect the world around them.

A 2019 white paper from Morgan Stanley entitled Sustainable Signals: Individual Investor Interest Driven by Impact, Conviction, and Choice revealed that 85% of US investors showed an interest in sustainable investing. And in Australia, almost $1 trillion of the $2.24 trillion managed by professional investors in 2019 was classed as responsible.

Another reason that socially responsible investing is on the rise is that more SRI ETF funds have been created to accommodate the increasing interest in investing according to the ESG parameters above. These funds are built via a strict screening process that digs into areas of interest for ethical investors. 

For example, an SRI ETF might consist of organizations and sectors committed to the use and production of renewable energy. Or perhaps there will be a fund full of organizations with diverse leadership boards or that use other hiring practices that promote diversity and inclusion.

So, does ethical investing work? While much of responsible investing is first and foremost based on adhering to moral standards, there is still plenty of opportunity for profit, too. 

A 2019 report by the Responsible Investment Association of Australasia (RIAA) showed responsible investment funds actually outperformed their mainstream Australian fund counterparts over multiple time frames. Ethical funds also stood up to Morningstar International share funds and mainstream multi-sector growth funds.

Green Investment Opportunities

Whether you want to do your part ethically, want to invest based on your religious or political beliefs or are just looking to add exciting new assets to your portfolio, there are several key ethical investing sectors that you can dive into today.

Tip: Select a cause that is close to your heart or target a green investment opportunity you think has the chance to succeed in the future.

Green Investment Opportunities

Here is a snapshot of the sectors in which you might want to start. But as with any investment, make sure you do your research to find the one that is best for you.

Ethical SectorInvestment Opportunity
WaterZacks Global Water Index
WaterFirst Trust ISE Water Index Fund (FIW)
WaterInvesco Global Water Portfolio ETF (PHO)
Wind PowerVestas Wind Systems (VWDRY)
Wind PowerNextEra Energy Partners (NEP)
Wind PowerGeneral Electric (GE)
Solar EnergyEnphase Energy (ENPH)
Solar EnergyVivint Solar (VSLR)
Solar EnergySunrun (RUN)
Pollution ControlsFuel-Tech (FTEK)
Pollution ControlsInvesco Cleantech ETF (PZD)
Pollution ControlsVanEck Vectors Environmental Services
Waste ReductionWaste Management
Waste ReductionRepublic Services (RSG)
Waste ReductionCovanta Holdings (CVA)

Ethical investment strategies

While there are plenty of different investment strategies to suit different personalities, goals and lifestyles, here are a few of the most popular when it comes to ethical investing.


ESG screening occurs when a portfolio manager or a trader examines an asset or company based on the environmental, social and governing factors discussed above. Its performance in these areas is used as a determining factor in how profitable it can be, not necessarily whether or not it should be excluded from any investment.

This is similar to ESG investing as a whole in that it is more about determining bottom line success than making a moral or ethical choice.

Negative screening

If a fund invests in companies with poor performance in environmental, social or governing areas that are important to you, you can decide not to invest in that fund. You screen or remove these funds as options for your portfolio.

Positive screening

Positive screening is when you put more emphasis on investing in funds with companies committed to making a positive difference in ESG areas. You add more weight to them as possibilities or go out of your way to include them in your portfolio.

Engagement investing

Engagement investing is when an investor tries to make a meaningful change to a company or fund he or she is already invested in. This can be quite difficult for most investors or fund managers, as many will not have enough ownership in a company or ETF to have a loud enough voice to make change.

Impact investing

Impact investing is when investors get on the front foot and invest in companies or funds they think can make a difference while also producing strong dividends

Ethical investing

Ethical investing can be a fantastic option for many reasons. You can feel good about your investments without compromising your morals or ethics, while also helping improve the world around you. And on top of all that, you can end up with some fantastic dividends, especially as the world’s trajectory trends toward more sustainable efforts.

Tip: When it comes to trading, many of those who succeed, make decisions based on an underlying investment strategy.


Ready to give yourself the green light to invest in green energy? Want to renew your interest in trading through investing in renewable energy companies? eToro can help you do exactly that, with a selection of ethical stocks and assets that can be bought and traded online

And eToro’s trading platform gives you another tool for your investing arsenal. With the platform’s Popular Investment Program, you can find people with similar interests, including those committed to investing ethically. Then, you can follow their lead, copying their investment strategies as you see fit. It is a fantastic way to feel even better and more confident about your trading.

Sign up to eToro and invest in companies you believe in.


What are examples of impact investing?

While impact investing can take many forms, some examples include investing in a company that strives to make healthcare more accessible to low-income groups, those developing technology to make clean water more readily available, or those addressing social and environmental concerns in their day-to-day activities.

Is ethical investing profitable?

As with any form of investment, an ethical investment may or may not be profitable depending on what you choose to invest in and the company’s performance. Before investing, be sure to do your due diligence and look for opportunities to reduce your risk.

What’s the difference between ESG and socially responsible investing?

The key difference between ESG and SRI is that ESG primarily relates to the way in which a company operates and addresses its environmental, social and governance practices, while SRI involves selecting investments based on personal ethical criteria.

This information is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as investment advice, personal recommendation, or an offer of, or solicitation to, buy or sell any financial instruments. This material has been prepared without regard to any particular investment objectives or financial situation and has not been prepared in accordance with the legal and regulatory requirements to promote independent research. Any references to past performance of a financial instrument, index or a packaged investment product are not, and should not be taken as a reliable indicator of future results. eToro makes no representation and assumes no liability as to the accuracy or completeness of the content of this guide. Make sure you understand the risks involved in trading before committing any capital. Never risk more than you are prepared to lose.