HRWC builds a sustainable future

At HRWC, we strive to stay true to our mission—to protect and restore the river for healthy and vibrant communities. We do this through hands-on work in the field—sampling water chemistry, studying mussels and stonefly populations, and installing rain gardens. We teach children, volunteers, and community members how to keep our river clean, and why it’s vitally important that each of us take action. HRWC also works to protect our home river by encouraging policies and practices that help ensure a healthy future for the watershed.

Photo of two people from HRWC staff in a creekOur mission informs our investments

Staying true to our mission also means being thoughtful about how we invest our funds. In 2017, HRWC started an investment account and hired the Bank of Ann Arbor to manage the fund. Our Finance Committee discussed various investment strategies and felt it was important to not only focus on investment returns but also on the impact of the investments. We asked the bank to look for funds that would align with our mission. At that time, there was a growing class of funds designated as environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) funds. ESG funds strive to follow sustainable practices and have evolved to include the principles of health, safety, and corporate responsibility. Companies are scored by analysts at firms such as Bloomberg ESG Data Services, MSCI ESG Research, Thomson Reuters ESG Research, and Moody’s Investor Service. Our investment advisor recently earned a Certificate in ESG Investing from the CFA Institute, a relatively new certification that helps advisors have a deeper understanding of investment options. Much of the focus around responsible investing in the US is currently on climate change, but in other countries, it is expanding to areas like DEI, waste, and biodiversity.

HRWC’s policy is to invest a minimum of 30% of our investments in this asset class. Worldwide, ESG assets surpassed $35 trillion in 2020, up from $22.8 trillion in 2018. Locally, Bank of Ann Arbor reports that 40% of its assets under management are invested in ESG funds, up from 30% in 2018.

Sustainability is in demand

Investing in ESG funds is a good start to aligning our investments with our mission, but it’s just a start. We need to continue to educate those who live in our watershed and beyond about best practices to protect clean water and healthy ecosystems, and we need to support ongoing conversations among policymakers and manufacturing firms to incentivize the reduction of carbon waste and chemicals such as PFAS. The increasing popularity of ESG funds indicates that there is a clear demand among consumers for companies that practice sustainable methods of production and life-cycle planning; let’s keep the wave going.

Thank you for your help! Together we will protect and restore the river for healthy and vibrant communities.

For more information about donating to HRWC, contact Wendy Palms,

—Jennifer Kangas and Wendy Palms

This blog post is also published in the Huron River Report, Fall 2023.