More Companies Offer Socially Responsible Retirement Plans

If companies wanted to offer its employees a diverse socially responsible retirement plan before 2006, it did not exist. Many plans offered one or two options, if any, until the emergence of Social( k ), the nation's most diverse socially responsible retirement plan, offering more than 100 screened socially responsible funds from which to choose.

In its first year, thirty five companies and organizations either converted their existing plan or began offering Social(k) in conjunction with their plans. Robert Thomas, the president of the Springfield, MA- based company, says that interest continues to build and he estimates the number of new businesses and organizations signing up this year will increase 150 percent or more.

Two of the nation's top socially responsible investment (SRI) fund families have already signed (Parnassus Investments in San Francisco and Winslow Management Company in Boston). Also signing up were the Organic Trade Association, in Greenfield, MA, representing the fast expanding U.S. organic industry, and Honest Tea in Bethesda, MD, the U.S. top-selling brand of bottled organic tea.

"Many companies, particularly in the "sustainable" community, were searching for a retirement plan that reflected their mission and they embraced Social( k ) as it filled that need," said Thomas. Social( k ) allows socially conscious retirement investors to profit while maintaining their principles."

And they can profit. In the past 16 years, Thomas noted, since the inception of the Domini 400 Social Index on May 1, 1990, its 12.09 percent annualized returns has beaten the S&P 500's annualized 11.45 percent returns.

The plan was well-received by the financial community last year, with almost 300 financial advisors registering with the company, to enable them to offer this unique retirement plan to clients as an alternative to the normally limited options offered in traditional programs.

In its efforts to maintain its mission of social responsibility, Social ( k ) also offers retirement record-keeping and administration services via the internet by New Jersey-based provider ExpertPlan, which greatly reduces the use of paper.

"Last year, Social( k ) ranked as one of our most productive distribution partners," said Ross Brown, ExpertPlan senior vice president of sales and relationship management. "We have no doubt that Social( k )'s strong sales momentum will continue in 2007."

The plan seems ripe for growth, as less than one third of employees have access to socially responsible funds as part of their retirement plans, according to a 2002 Calvert/Harris Interactive survey, while 68 percent of employees want the option to invest in such funds. The survey also showed that 74 percent of employees who do not have SRI funds offered in their retirement plans would invest if they were offered then.

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