What do you get when you cross a keen investor with a strong set of values? Gerhard Pries, Managing Partner and CEO of Sarona Asset Management (Sarona). Sarona is a private investment firm focused on strong financial returns along with ethical, social, and environmental values. Gerhard’s family is also a member and investor in Community Energy Development Co-operative (CED Co-op), and he shares his insights about investing for impact.

The start of Gerhard’s interest in aligning investment decisions with social impact came when he learned about Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), an organisation he then joined as CFO. “This was the first time I saw an organization create growth and vibrancy through investing. I was intrigued.” says Gerhard. Gerhard strengthened MEDA’s investment programs in support of business in emerging markets. Eventually this business separated from MEDA as the private investment company Sarona.

At Sarona, Gerhard looks for companies and private equity funds that improve our social or environmental situation in addition to creating profits for investors. As Gerhard explains, “The work I do on a daily basis is actually similar to what CED Co-op is doing. The major difference is that Sarona invests exclusively in emerging markets, while CED Co-op is making a difference through local renewable energy projects.”

Making an impact through good business drives Gerhard. He points to the increasing trend to spend more on products that have social value as opposed to strict commodities, such as the boom in fair trade coffee or sweatshop free clothing. In assigning a dollar value to their personal values, consumers are placing pressure on businesses to operate in socially and environmentally responsible ways. Our expectations as consumers and businesses are much higher than they were before.

“Now that we are using our purchasing dollars to improve society, why can’t we do the same with our investment dollars?” This is the principle that guides Gerhard’s business and his family’s investment decisions. “I believe it’s something we will continue to see increase. Much like the options consumers have for their purchasing power, investors will see more responsible options. There are great opportunities to invest in companies that are at the leading edge of this movement, and one day it will not feel as unique or strange as it is today.”

“Let’s be clear,” says Gerhard, “This isn’t about charity. Sarona seeks investments that deliver a strong return like any other firm would. We also expect the companies we invest in to operate efficiently. The difference is that we expect every company we invest in to deliver positive social and environmental outcomes in addition to a strong financial return on our investment.”

Gerhard’s family’s investment strategy lines up with his professional perspective, “We have zero interest in investing in the stock market. As much as possible we like to invest in responsible companies or projects that we understand.” Sarona looks exclusively to emerging markets, but Gerhard’s family is happy to invest closer to home as well. That’s why they are a CED Co-op investor – it is a local organization they believe in.

By supporting local solar projects, CED Co-op is investing in renewable energy. This investment in energy generation is an important step in supporting a low-carbon economy. In addition to this environmental benefit the co-op delivers strong financial returns for its investors. “It isn’t the most aggressive investment in our family portfolio,” says Gerhard, “but we trust Community Energy Development Co-operative and it aligns with our values.”

Thank you to Gerhard Pries for sharing his perspective on Community Energy Development Co-operative, and the importance of aligning your investments with your values.

Each month we feature one of our more than 600 members explaining what made them choose CED Co-op, and why they believe in community minded professional investment.


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