Lawmaker Wants Socially Responsible Investment Option for State’s College Savings Program

    A state lawmaker wants Maryland’s college savings plan to offer its investors an option to invest in socially responsible funds.

    Del. Lorig Charkoudian (D-Montgomery) wrote last week to state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D), who chairs the board that oversees the so-called 529 fund, urging the college savings plan to include “investment options that integrate social, environmental and corporate governance criteria into the investment decision-making criteria, alongside rigorous financial analysis.”

    “The goal of this sustainable investing approach is to achieve positive market returns and positive social, environmental and corporate governance impacts,” Charkoudian wrote.

    The lawmaker laid out four central arguments for doing so: Return on investment is more than financial, she said, and can achieve positive impacts on public health, the environment, labor rights, racial and gender equality, and other social conditions.

    What’s more, Charkoudian wrote, the number of socially responsible investment options are increasing – and their financial performance is improving. She noted that seven states plus the District of Columbia have recently offered the option for their 529 investment programs. The others are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

    “When we consider financial returns, investor choice, and the alignment of assets with social and environmental values, it is clear that Maryland’s College Savings Plan platform should include socially and environmentally responsible options,” Charkoudian concluded in her letter to Kopp.

    In a related development, the Maryland 529 board this week named Erin Layton as the agency’s new executive director and CEO. Layton previously had served as director of investments for Maryland 529.

    The appointment was first reported by the Baltimore Business Journal.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.