National trade associations in the field of socially responsible investment are organizations that exist primarily to advance the field as a whole, serving as focal points for the industry. Though the organizations in this category in the field of social investment do not refer to themselves as 'trade associations', or even necessarily limit themselves geographically, they in essence perform such roles. They prefer to call themselves, more innocuously, forums and organizations, and sometimes, in a more generic sense, networks. This may be due to the fact that their membership is open to anyone, and is not limited to corporations operating within the field. However, they all tend to provide special services for their professional members.
Their main functions are networking (i.e., bringing people together who share common interests, and ensuring those people are kept informed of the latest issues, ideas and activities), research, promotion and advocacy.
There are several smaller counterparts to the national trade associations,
operating along similar aims, but with a narrower focus geographically
and sectorally. Because they are smaller and less well-financed,
they are not able to provide the complete range of services that
the national organizations do. Most of them are members of the
Although most of the organizations and individuals involved in SRI can be said to be in research mode insofar as it requires ongoing learning to keep abreast of developments in this constantly evolving field, there are certain organizations that focus specifically on research and analysis, particularly on how corporate operations measure up to specific SRI screens, and on SRI issues. Professional investors often rely on their findings as a basis for investment decisions.
There are some SRI organizations that perform a number of different functions, rather than focusing solely in one area, and cannot be easily categorized. They may be termed 'general resources' for the field.
As previously described in the Overview of Socially Responsible Investing section of this website, shareholder activism is an important contribution to the effort of reforming corporate practices.
Many SRI-affiliated organizations produce and distribute their own newsletters and other publications to their memberships. In some cases, the number is substantial. The Social Investment Forum, for example, claims its directories reach "over 150,000 socially conscious investors each year".
There are now 144 mutual funds in the US employing social and/or environmental criteria as a part of their formal, publicly stated investment policy, and in 1996, 44 ethical trusts and funds in the UK. In Canada, there are about 18, counting the labour-sponsored funds. Good Money maintains listings of ethical, environmental and social funds (plus banks and credit unions).in Canada and in the US.
As social investment has grown in popularity, so too have the number of financial services professionals that espouse the SRI credo. Investment advisors that specialize in SRI assist their clients on the best vehicles by which their investments can achieve social ends as well as perform financially. In this way, the clients "do well by doing good".