Five steps to a sustainable retirement plan

Are your retirement savings funding the climate crisis? If you don’t know, you’re not alone. Over 100 million employees across the U.S. have over $10 trillion invested in retirement savings, but very few know which companies they are funding with their retirement dollars. Using this toolkit, you will learn how to lower your financial risks from unsustainable investments and maybe even help your co-workers do the same.


1
Learn about the financial risks of unsustainable investments

Unsustainable investments could put your 401(k) at risk

There is a widespread myth that investing sustainably means sacrificing returns. But if anything, the evidence suggests the opposite is true. Learn more

Financial risks of unsustainable investments

Your retirement plan is fueling the climate crisis and social inequality

Companies hidden in your retirement plan may be fueling deforestation, the use of fossil fuels, and even contributing to societal challenges like gender inequality and mass incarceration. Learn more

The issue

2
Know what you own

Now that you understand the risk associated with unsustainable retirement investments, it’s time to find out if your investments are exposed to these risks.

See if we’ve scored your company

If you work at a big company, we might have already graded your retirement plan. To find out, visit our retirement plans page. If you don’t see your company, don’t fret: you can look up your funds by following the steps below.

Find your plan lineup

To start, log into your retirement portal to look up what funds are available to you, and write down the names or tickers. More likely than not, your company has selected a target date fund as the default option. If you are not invested in a target date, then you are likely invested in mutual funds.

Find your fund grades

Use our database to look up our environmental and social ratings for your funds.




3
Take action

Identify the best person to speak with

Your plan administrator is the person responsible for adding options to your retirement plan. You may already have sustainable options available, so you should contact your plan administrator to find out (you may have to email HR to help you find your plan administrator).

Contact your plan administrator

Once you have the name and email of your plan administrator, it is time to contact them. Here’s an email we have written for you to get started.

Make a switch

If you find out you do have access to sustainable funds that meet your investment needs, then you can make a switch. If you don’t have sustainable options available, and management is not willing to add new options, it’s time to move on to the next step.


4
Become a change agent

If management is not willing to add sustainable options to your retirement plan, it is time to take your financial future into your own hands.

Reach out to the sustainability team

If you company has a sustainability team or department it is usually a good sign that your company cares about these issues, and they should be able to advocate on your behalf. You can use the same sample letter from above to reach out this team and start the conversation.

Email your co-workers and form a coalition

If you’re writing to someone in power, advocating on behalf of 20 or even 10 people carries a lot more weight than just one. One way to spur interest would be to share the results from our tools with your fellow employees. All plan participants are offered the same basket of mutual funds as you are, so they are probably asking the same questions are you are right now.

Keep pushing

Management may not be responsive the first time you ask about sustainable investments. Be persistent – continue giving updates to your colleagues that you’ve organized, and keep raising the issue. The most important thing to highlight is that unsustainable investing carries real financial risks. Without sustainable investment options, employees are forced to assume those financial risks, which may be a violation of your retirement plan administrator’s fiduciary duty.


5
Join the movement

Now it is time to join the movement by advocating your power to invest in an economy that is based on justice and sustainability.

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Action center

Learn how to work with your employer to ensure your retirement plan is sustainably invested.

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Disclaimer: As You Sow is not an investment adviser

As You Sow is not an investment adviser as that term is defined under federal and state (California) laws and regulations. As You Sow is a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and empowering shareholders to change corporations for the good through the collection, analysis and dissemination of relevant information to the public, free of charge. As You Sow does not provide financial planning, legal or tax advice. Nothing on this website shall constitute or be construed as an offering of financial instruments, or as investment advice or investment recommendations.
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