Open Center History: Socially Responsible Investing

Thirty one years ago this week the Open Center organized the very first conference in New York City on Socially Responsible Investing. At the time, the idea of doing well financially by doing good seemed as radical and unlikely as a major center for holistic learning flourishing in the heart of a troubled Big Apple in the midst of rising levels of stress and crime. But almost 200 participants showed up, we had all the major innovators in the field of social responsible investing, and the conference was a resounding success. It must have helped to seed the ideas involved in investing in companies that are not involved in the arms or tobacco trade, that do not damage the environment, that treat their workers with respect, and that behave like corporate entities with some concern for people and ecology not just a relentless focus on profit to the exclusion of all other values. Today these ideas are no longer revolutionary.

This was the mission of the Open Center in the early days (we launched in January 1984). We were pioneers of the holistic and ecological worldview and, unlike ‘retreat’ centers that give individuals a much needed chance for rest and recuperation, we were an ‘advance’ center whose goal was to advance these values and practices into the heart of the culture, as embodied by NYC. Not long before this event, we had produced the country’s first conference on the Destruction of the Amazonian Rainforest (the Lungs of Gaia appeared somewhere in the title) in co-operation with the Rainforest Alliance. But that’s another story that perhaps we’ll tell in the future in this new ‘This Week in Open Center History’ feature!