CoPower: responsible investing if you have just $5,000

If you have $5,000 and are looking for an easy way to get started in socially responsible investing, CoPower is it.

On Tuesday, March 7th, the Board of Change hosted a panel discussion with CoPower’s Director of Investments, Trish Nixon, and Vancity’s Vice President of Impact Investing, Christine Bergeron, to discuss how average investors can do good with their money. Christie Stephenson, Executive Director at UBC’s The Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics, moderated the discussion.

An opportunity to invest responsibly, see tangible social results, and not need millions or a trust fund to do it? You can pinch yourself to check; it’s not just a dream anymore. With Canadian clean energy investment company CoPower’s new bond offering, impact investing just laid out a welcome mat to the average investor.

The traditional problem with impact investing, noted Vancity’s Bergeron, is its lack of diversity and accessibility. Investments considered too risky for the average investor are the norm with impact investing; the market is accessible largely only to accredited investors (individuals who meet financial standards such as a net worth of over $1 million excluding real estate).

For Nixon, CoPower marks a shift in that trend. According to the company’s director of investments, CoPower’s current green bond offering is both a significant financial opportunity for investors and a chance to democratize the financial markets.

“There’s a huge opportunity to move significant amounts of capital [towards] clean energy and impact when we empower individuals to do so,” said Nixon. “Individuals… want to invest according to their values.”

CoPower is now offering three and five-year bonds with interest rates of 3.5% and 5% respectively. Investors can receive quarterly interest payments or reinvest the payments. The minimum investment is $5000, and the principal is repaid at maturity. Investments are RRSP and TFSA-eligible with an additional fee.

CoPower green bonds are not liquid and do not have a secondary market, said Nixon, and likely won’t make up an investor’s entire portfolio. However, CoPower green bonds could be an ideal component of a portfolio, she noted.

Nixon sees large growth ahead for CoPower and the impact investing field in Canada. “In the next three years,” she said, “we want to move $100 million in assets to clean energy and I think we’re on track to do that.”