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‘Investing in Zero’ podcast with Peter Krull

17 Jun 2021

By Andy Vesey

In my most recent episode, Peter Krull joined me. Peter is Chief Executive and Director of Investments at Earth Equity Advisors. He founded the company in 2004 with the intention of helping clients align their investments with their values. A leader in the green community, Peter focuses on creating sustainable investment portfolios and has grown earth equity to have clients in 22 states and manages over $150 million in assets in 2018. He was nominated as one of the most influential financial advisors in America by Investopedia 100 and was selected as a “40 under 40” by The Savannah Business Report. 

Peter started his career at Merrill Lynch and then had a short stint at BB&T, when he set out to create a firm that focused on—what was then called—socially responsible investing. In this venture, he cites two influences: Melissa Booth (his then-partner, now wife) a double-PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics; and Bill McDonough, preeminent green architect and author of Cradle To Cradle. Together, the three discussed how to integrate investment practices into a greener future.

Discussing the 2004 genesis of Earth Equity Advisors led me to pose a natural question: is there a difference between ESG and SRI? Or did the term simply evolve? Peter assured me that, in his view, there is most definitely a difference. He believes that ESG is a tool that helps us to understand companies better and look a little bit deeper into their inner workings. For example, a fossil fuel company wants to be included on ESG indexes, but it knows that to do so it must meet certain environmental metrics. And the investor can know this, too, facilitating the choices they make in where to place capital. Of course, however, this can lead to greenwashing: simply doing the right thing to up the index of an otherwise irresponsible company. Peter asserted that SRI was more human-involved and an end-product or goal; but that ESG can lead to a slippery slope, as metrics can easily be abused when merely addressed nominally. 

I then asked Peter what he has learned as an early entrant into this field, and how his 17 years’ experience has seasoned his approach. He told me that it’s a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other approach, and that it’s taken a long time to build up to the $150 million mark. In this pursuit, Peter has had to learn to be ahead of the curve, seeing through greenwashing, so he can effectively serve the interests of his clients. Like me, Peter agrees that annual reports with established standards for sustainability must exist and have the same weight as annual financial reports. In the meantime, Peter is left pulling data from a plethora of sources. 

His investment portfolio has also evolved. What used to be a basket of sustainable stocks containing mostly wind and solar has diversified to financial services, consumer products, communication, and technology. Peter believes this diversification has tracked with where the economy is going. Peter told me the principal aim of his firm is to give an insight into where those growth opportunities are. But, as the firm does so, it must assess emerging risks to sustainability; green energy and renewables; and all of the compliance issues around diversity, and how a supply chain promotes appropriate labor practices. 

In this way, Earth Equity Advisors operates at the crossroads of so many of today’s most pressing headlines and issues. Our conversation touched upon a good many of them and you can hear more at https://www.investinginzero.fm


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