George Gay Dollars & Change

A Deep Dive into ESG Investing with First Affirmative’s George Gay

In our latest episode of Dollars & Change: The Experts Guide to Sustainable & Responsible Investing, host Peter Krull explores sustainable, responsible, and impact investing (SRI) at the ESG for Impact Conference. Nestled between the scenic locales of Denver and Boulder, Colorado, Peter speaks with George R. Gay, CFP®, AIF®, CEO of First Affirmative Financial Network, who shares his profound insights and personal journey into the world of sustainable and responsible investing.

George’s narrative begins with his upbringing near Lake Erie, where early encounters with pollution instilled a deep-rooted appreciation for the environment and conservation. This appreciation, coupled with a robust career that spans military service to business management at an army post, eventually guided him to First Affirmative. Since 1986, George has witnessed and contributed to the evolution of sustainable investing, reflecting on the shift from socially responsible investing to the broader, more inclusive umbrella of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing.

The conversation then pivoted to the current political climate surrounding ESG investing, addressing the misconceptions and the critical role of due diligence in the investment process. According to George, ESG data should not be viewed through a political lens but rather as a crucial component of comprehensive investment analysis, offering insights into risks and opportunities alike.

The episode also tackled the challenges and criticisms facing ESG scoring systems, highlighting the necessity for standardized reporting and the potential of Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB) to harmonize ESG data usage. Furthermore, George highlights the importance of transparency and the adaptability of investment strategies to align with individual values despite the complexity of integrating numerous social screens.

Peter and George conclude their discussion by contemplating the future of the investment advisory profession in the face of generational shifts in wealth and values. They stress the importance of engaging younger investors and adapting practices to align with sustainability and ethical considerations, underlining the inevitability of this transition for future-proofing businesses.

Amidst a backdrop of escalating environmental crises, George remains hopeful, envisioning a future where leadership and collective action converge to address global challenges head-on. This episode of Dollars & Change not only illuminates the intricacies of ESG investing, but also serves as a beacon of optimism to drive meaningful change.

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Be good. Invest better.

The Earth Equity Team.