Beyond Investing is a US-based registered investment adviser for animal advocates and environmentalists, owned by three highly experienced investment professionals who follow a vegan lifestyle.
Food is an important part of the vegan lifestyle, but once you embrace cruelty-free living, you start to realise that animal exploitation is inherent in other areas of your life. For example, if you invest in stocks and shares, or if you have some kind of pension fund, you may inadvertently be supporting companies that harm animals, as well as people and the planet.
While interest in socially responsible investing (SRI) is increasing, the availability of financial products that explicitly reject animal exploitation has been limited, if not completely absent in most markets. But that’s set to change, with the launch of the world’s first vegan-friendly and climate-conscious exchange traded fund (ETF) onto the New York Stock Exchange with the ticker VEGN.
An ETF is an investment fund which is traded throughout the day on stock exchanges via banks, online brokers and robo-advisors. It goes up or down in value according to the price movements of stocks in the particular index it tracks.
The US Vegan Climate ETF has been created by Beyond Investing, a team of experienced vegan finance professionals in the US, Switzerland and the UK. It will track the US Vegan Climate Index (ticker VEGAN) launched by Beyond Investing in June 2018. This Index takes the Solactive US Large Cap index (a proxy for the S&P 500 Index) and excludes any stocks whose activities are incompatible with a vegan and climate-conscious approach to investing, replacing damaging stocks with midcap alternatives that meet its ethical criteria.
This means the fund avoids investing in companies whose business models rely on animal exploitation – predominantly testing and animal-derived products – as well as removing fossil fuel and environmental threats such as plastic and agrochemicals, which are harmful to wild animals.
Compared against the unscreened Solactive US Large Cap Index, the Vegan Climate Index has 61% less carbon, 89% less waste and 83% less water (as calculated on 30 June 2018 by Impact Cubed).
Claire Smith, founder of Beyond Investing, co-created the fund to provide a solution for herself as an investor and for the growing number of people wanting to invest in line with their values.
“So many compassionate people go to great efforts to avoid buying products that contain animal ingredients or have been subject to cruel testing, but when it comes to their investment options, they’re actively, albeit often unwittingly, supporting companies and industries that exploit and torture animals. Our ETF offers them the opportunity to invest in a way that is animal-friendly and climate-friendly. And because we love humans as much as other animals, we have defence and human rights screens as well.”
VEGN, which been designed to provide an alternative to a diversified US large cap index tracker, is accessible to investors in most countries, with one notable exception being the EU where the new Packaged Retail Investment and Insurance-Based Products (PRIIPs)’s Regulation has caused US ETFs to be removed from brokerage platforms for retail investors. To remedy this, Beyond Investors is currently designing an EU-acceptable structure.
For those who have pension funds or the flexibility to select their own investments, Smith says it should be possible to include the US Vegan Climate ETF, although people may have to request that their pension provider add it as an option on their platform.
But Smith and her team aren’t stopping there. They’ll be actively engaging with companies to encourage them to make their business practices more animal-friendly, by removing animal products from their business lines and improving their services to vegans.
Smith is also the co-founder of Beyond Animal, an integrated digital platform which aims to encourage the growth of the vegan economy through providing a one-stop-shop combining social media, e-commerce, a vegan jobs board and information hub. Through her Beyond Impact advisory program, she also invests in vegan brands.
Meanwhile Debra Bouton, an animal activist and former private wealth manager at Morgan Stanley, is heading up US sales of the new ETF.
The US Vegan Climate ETF lists live on the NYSE with the ticker VEGN.
For more information, visit www.veganetf.com.
PAGE UPDATED JULY 2020