More than a third - 35% - of mutual fund investors with defined contribution retirement plans said their employers' plans offer socially responsible investment options, more than double the 16% that had offered these funds in 1996, according to a new study by The Calvert Group, Bethesda, Md.
A socially responsible fund is a mutual fund registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission that is designed to achieve a defined investment goal through traditional investment processes and by investing "in enterprises that the fund managers believe make a significant contribution to society through their products and services and the way they do business," according to a letter issued by the SEC in 1998 that appeared to clear the way for the use of these funds in 401(k) plans.
In all, about 65% of the 800 mutual fund investors interviewed by Yankelovich Partners, Norwalk, Conn., for Calvert indicated that they had money invested in their companies' retirement plans, said Barbara Krumsiek, Calvert's president and chief investment officer. Eighty-four percent of investors with employee retirement plans said they are satisfied with the variety of investment choices offered by the plan, the survey indicated.
Of employees who have a socially responsible investment option available, seven in 10 indicated they invest in that option, she said.
"This is higher than we had anticipated," she said.
It is also higher than in 1996, the last time such a survey was conducted, when 56% of investors said they invested in their companies' socially responsible fund options.
More women than men currently invest in their retirement plans' socially responsible options: 78% of women vs. 60% of men.
Of those investors who did not have access to a socially responsible option, 70% said they would invest in one if it were available. Sixty-five percent of those interviewed said they would like to see their company add a socially responsible option to the company retirement plan.
More women than men, 76% vs. 57%, said they would like to have a socially responsible retirement plan option available. And 88% of women and 60% of men who do not currently have a socially responsible retirement option indicated that they would invest in one if they could.