Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'Green' Investing Remains Priority Despite Economic Conditions, According to SunTrust Survey of Wealthy Business Owners

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Even while citing a down economy and concerns about the earth's ecosystem, business owners continue to be optimistic about giving to environmental causes, according to a survey released today by SunTrust Bank Private Wealth Management. The study surveyed more than 200 business owners with at least $10 million in annual revenue about their outlook on "green" giving and investing.

Sixty-nine percent of business owners claimed, "Even if there is an economic downturn that moderately affects my business, I plan to maintain my current level of giving to environmental causes in the coming year."

Balancing sentiments about the nation's economy and the health of the planet, most survey respondents believe it is a "good" or "average" time to invest in mutual funds or other financial instruments that are specifically marketed as "green" or environmentally responsible. In addition, forty percent of respondents believe it is a "good time" for all businesses to adhere to the highest possible environmental standards.

"The survey shows that business owners recognize that environmental stewardship can have genuine bottom-line results," says Dave Johnston, Senior Vice President, SunTrust Private Wealth Management. "Through our Business Owner Specialty Group, we see that business owners want to give back to the community while also supporting strategic, 'green' investing."

In addition, business owners feel confident about investing in environmental funds. Fifty-nine percent believe that a "green" investment would generate a rate of return similar to any other fund.

An Environment Ripe for Change

Certainly a motivating factor in "green" investing is business owners' belief that the earth's environment is slowly deteriorating (45 percent). When assessing the larger world around us, nearly half characterized the health of the earth's environment as "fair" (47%), with 30 percent citing it as "good," 18 percent as "poor" and five percent as "excellent."

"In the surveys we have conducted over the past year, we have found business owners give altruistically and abundantly," added Johnston. "This survey indicates that business owners consider it a priority to take action based on their personal concerns about changes in the world around them."

Pollution and energy policy topped the list of concerns that prompted business owners to invest in environmental funds and causes. Other influencers included a personal desire to make positive changes in the world, and past performance of a particular investment fund.

Personal and Professional Investment in the Cause

There were some caveats: Eighty-eight percent of business owners surveyed lend financial support only to environmental organizations they have researched thoroughly. And 72 percent give only to environmental organizations that are "well established."

And, as a whole, while attitudes and preferences toward green investing remain strong, most business owners had neither invested personal money nor business money in mutual funds or financial instruments marketed as "green" or environmentally responsible. Only 31 percent had invested personally this way. Only 28 percent had allocated business funds to these investments.

However, nearly half said their company had an official "green" policy that included recycling, energy saving plans and other measures. And, nearly half of the business owners donated personal money to organizations devoted to helping the environment, such as the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Wilderness Society or some other such organization.

"Business owners believe in the integrity and prosperity that can come from green investing," said Johnston. "As they balance personal concerns and economic needs, they continue to see eco investing and 'green' workplace policies as viable and appealing."

Methodology

GfK Roper Public Affairs conducted an online survey for SunTrust Bank Private Wealth Management to better understand the key issues and concerns among high net worth business owners. In total, 202 business owners with $10 million or more in revenue were surveyed. All interviews were self-administered using GfK's proprietary web-based platform. Respondents were drawn from GfK's online panel. The random sample was conducted in November 2008.

The Bank's Commercial and Private Wealth Management lines of business have formed a strategic partnership, through the Business Owner Specialty Group, to address the unique business and personal financial complexities faced by this high net worth population.

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