[This is the first installment of a new monthly feature in Investment Advisor. The ETF Advisor will use the institutional-strength research and analysis resources of Standard & Poor's to explore exchange traded funds and how they can be used in building client portfolios. This month, S&P senior writer Vaughan Scully explores SRI ETFs.]
Exchange traded funds had a tough year in 2008: roughly 50 of the more than 700 ETFs listed in the United States were liquidated last year. But not to worry, ETF sponsors are still hard at work creating new portfolios that scratch every investment itch known to mankind.
This will be good news for those interested in socially responsible investing (SRI), as there will be several additions to the relatively thin list of exchange traded funds focused on companies with sustainable environmental practices, good corporate governance, respectful
policies for workers, and other attributes aimed at making the world a “kinder, gentler” place.
At the end of 2007, there were 173 different mutual funds but just eight ETFs screening for positive social and environmental practices, according to a report by the Washington, D.C.-based Social Investment Forum.
Of these, the PowerShares Wilder Clean Energy Portfolio is the largest, with about $600 million in assets under management. (By contrast, Ariel Fund, a broad-based socially responsible mutual fund launched in 1986, has close to $1.3 billion in AUM.) Other SRI ETFs include the iShares KLD Select Social Index Fund and the iShares KLD 400 Social Index Fund.