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21st Century Investing summary

William Burckart and Steven D. Lydenberg

Redirecting Financial Strategies to Drive Systems Change

3.4 (201 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

In '21st Century Investing', William Burckart and Steven D. Lydenberg explore the future of sustainable and impact investing. They provide a roadmap for investors looking to align their investments with their values and create positive social and environmental impacts.

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    21st Century Investing
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    System-level investing strengthens the social, financial, and environmental systems that society depends on.

    Close your eyes for a minute and try to imagine your average investor. What kind of person do you see?

    Forget about the superficial stuff like the investor’s appearance. Instead, ask yourself whether the person you’re imagining has a strong social conscience. Is this average investor altruistic and civic-minded? Are they caring and committed to changing the world for the better?

    Unfortunately, the answer is probably no. If the investor you imagined was self-interested, greedy, and just looking to make a quick buck, then you’re not alone. For too long, many investors have matched that caricature – and that’s where system-level investing comes in.

    The key message here is: System-level investing strengthens the social, financial, and environmental systems that society depends on.

    Too many investors have short-sighted and purely self-serving goals. They invest to maximize their returns – and, if they manage a fund, their clients’ returns.

    These investors comply with the law, sure. But as far as they’re concerned, that’s where their obligations to the wider world end. System-level investors, on the other hand, take a different view. Instead of focusing on short-term financial gains, they invest in ways that strengthen the systems that make human life sustainable and fair. 

    If this sounds a lot like sustainable investment to you, that makes sense. System-level investing and sustainable investing do overlap – both have explicit environmental and social concerns, and both suggest that making a quick profit shouldn’t always be the most important thing.

    But system-level investors go further. They’re not necessarily fund managers or high-powered Chief Financial Officers; a dabbling hobby investor can be a system-level investor too. But what sets them apart is that they’re more active, targeted, and relentless than sustainability investors – they don't just buy shares in renewable energy companies and stop there. 

    System-level investors campaign for new public policies to make companies get in line. They advocate for progressive industry standards. And they collaborate with like-minded investors, coming together to make change. In short, they aim at systemic solutions. 

    Short-term gains that come at the expense of vital systems like health care, consumer safety, and climate stability are no gains at all. In fact, they’re serious losses. System-level investors realize this, so they invest in ways that make our fundamental systems stronger and more resilient. We’ll take a look at how they do that in the next blink.

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    What is 21st Century Investing about?

    21st Century Investing (2021) is a guide to ethical and responsible investment strategies. Instead of making money at the expense of our fragile social and environmental systems, you can invest in ways that will actually strengthen them – ensuring societal stability and long-term returns. 

    21st Century Investing Review

    21st Century Investing (2020) is a must-read book for anyone interested in the world of investing and its impact on the future. Here's why this book is worth your time:

    • It offers a refreshing perspective on investment strategies, exploring how environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors can drive financial performance.
    • With insightful case studies and expert analysis, it provides readers with practical tools to navigate the complex landscape of sustainable investing.
    • By addressing the ethical implications of investing, the book challenges conventional thinking and inspires readers to align their financial goals with their values.

    Who should read 21st Century Investing?

    • Investors wondering how to square profitability with social justice 
    • Anyone curious about the future of investment strategy
    • Savers hoping to future-proof their investments in an increasingly uncertain world

    About the Author

    William Burckart is COO and president of The Investment Integration Project (TIIP), a consulting services firm that advises organizations on systemic risks and opportunities. He coedited New Frontiers of Philanthropy, and his work has appeared in the Guardian and Forbes, among other publications.

    Steven Lydenberg is a partner at Domini Impact Investments. He is also the founder and CEO of The Investment Integration Project (TIIP), as well as the founding director of the Initiative for Responsible Investment at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. His publications include Corporations and the Public Interest and Dilemmas in Responsible Investment.

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    21st Century Investing FAQs 

    What is the main message of 21st Century Investing?

    The main message of 21st Century Investing is the importance of sustainable and responsible investing for a positive impact on society.

    How long does it take to read 21st Century Investing?

    The reading time for 21st Century Investing varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is 21st Century Investing a good book? Is it worth reading?

    21st Century Investing is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in aligning their investments with their values. It provides valuable insights and practical guidance.

    Who is the author of 21st Century Investing?

    The authors of 21st Century Investing are William Burckart and Steven D. Lydenberg.

    What to read after 21st Century Investing?

    If you're wondering what to read next after 21st Century Investing, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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